How do you lower the price per sale, improve your speed to market, and create a network of raving fans? For many entrepreneurs, it is critical to make every call count. Many sales experts say it takes over eight calls to close your first deal with a new customer or client. How many business development people can afford this investment of time to get clients?
I believe the most important skill a sales professional can have is the ability to get referrals from their prospective clients. I find that if you create an effective referral system you can shorten your sales cycles by 50-75%. That means you can be in a position to get a new client in two, or possibly three, calls. I know what you’re thinking, why don’t more sales professionals have a referral system?
Here’s what I’ve found out over the year, most don’t have a referral system because many sales trainers don’t even talk about referrals. They leave that for a later training session, which many times never comes. The second reason is that most new sales representatives are too busy learning to prospect, negotiate, and close new clients. That, and many front sales managers are too busy looking for large numbers than looking at making their teams more effective at leveraging every individual call that is made. Many successful sales organizations in the past got their numbers in a time when the economy was growing quickly and even a bad sales professional could get the business in their growing markets.
I would suggest in a slower economy and with the advent of many different screening tools, the person who buys your products and services can avoid most sales people almost indefinitely. The power has shifted to the buyer in the last recession and they have no intention of ever doing business the same way again. So what is the sales professional supposed to do? The short answer, increase their referrals.
Here are the major reasons that most sales professionals don’t get referrals today. The first reason they don’t get referrals is they don’t ask for them. They spend so much time sprinting to make their next call, they just forget to ask when they get the person on the phone. They go straight into their pitch and they never qualify the potential client. They talk at the client. They don’t build trust or confidence in the person they are talking with then they quickly move on to their next call.
The second reason they don’t get referrals is because they don’t really understand what their customer does. They have all the best sales training but they never take the time to understand a typical day in the potential client’s life. They offer the same features and benefits to every client, no matter who it is. They ask contrived questions and don’t wait to hear the answer.
The third reason they don’t get referrals is because they don’t know what the potential client’s business does. They have very limited understanding of their potential client’s business and because of this, they struggle through their initial calls versus increasing their knowledge with every call they complete. Not knowing about their client’s business, they are stuck when it comes to asking for help or a referral. I’ve watched great introductory calls go down the drain when the sales person asks for a referral without hearing what the person on the other end of the phone was saying.
So how do we change this? I believe the foundation to getting referrals is building trust with the client before asking. If you learn how to listen to your clients and begin understanding what their day is like, you can begin collecting high value referrals even at the beginning of your relationship with a potential client. I have a friend who counsels sales and business development professionals to think of the fourth sale first. I think this is good advice because it removes pressure from the initial call. It allows you to treat the client the way they would like to be treated and, if done correctly, allows you to add significant value to the client even before you have them as a client. As one of my favorite clients would say, I feel like you work for me. If I work for you, I know you will help support our mutual plans together.
The faster you can get to their side of the table, the more likely you’ll be successful in getting introduced to other people by them. They see you as an extension to their efforts. Next week, I share several practical ideas to jump start your referral efforts.
If your looking for additional ideas on growing your business you might also How Do You Build a High Growth Sales Business?
See you next week.