By Matt Anderson, author of Fearless Referrals
While asking expectantly and being specific about what you want are the first two must-do items in getting quality referrals, you also want to make sure your referral source says the right thing to your potential prospect so that you have permission to get in touch.
You can do everything right to this point and lose the opportunity because your introducer says the wrong thing. Most people do not know how to refer you effectively.
Don’t leave this to chance!
I was talking to someone in Minnesota not long ago about him referring me to the corporate training department of his company. It is often unwise to just “hope” that your referral source will do a masterful job of knowing what to say. Why should they? Their minds are focused on their own lives.
So I asked him what he planned to say to this person. It wasn’t very compelling. I was surprised. This company is using one of my most effective referral strategies in its national training programme. Yet, if it had been me receiving the call, I would not have been interested in meeting me if I had heard the way this contact of mine had worded it!
So I fairly hastily jumped in and suggested he add that I specialise in one thing: working with financial advisers on how to get more referrals. And I made sure he got permission for me to call him. Otherwise I was going to be waiting for this referral request to call me: no thanks!
You must have had the experience where a client has agreed to tell someone about you and returned saying “they weren’t interested.” And if you ask them, “I’m curious… what did you tell them?” you will likely cringe when they share what was said.
"I told them you wanted to call them about a new product you were selling.”
“I told them my financial adviser wanted to meet them and they said they already had one.”
“I told them someone I knew wanted to call them about borrowing capital.”
Coaching your referral sources how to warm up the referral will improve that name and number to a 50% chance of doing business.
So there are three reasons to coach your referral sources:
1. You don’t want them to mess it up when you’ve done everything else right.
2. Most people have no idea how to talk to others about what you do. You must teach them what to say and make it easy for them!
3. You want them to warm up your referral so your referral request is expecting your call.
Here’s the key to this step:
The only key = keep it simple. Their only job is to open the door and say:
"Michelle is great. You've got to talk to her. I'll have her call you."
They do not need to explain anything about the work you've done. It's not their job and most people can't explain it well anyway. The more they talk, the more likely it is that the person they are trying to refer will find an excuse or a flaw in their logic and decline.
It's your job to sell yourself once the door has been opened.
There are only three ways people can refer you: All of these work some of the time.
1. In person (this is the best way – especially in a non-threatening environment like over a drink or at an event)
2. In a real-time conversation either over the phone or in person.
3. Virtually in an email or through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc.
Example 1 of Coaching an Introducer.
This script is all you need to direct your client’s conversation with the referral:
"That's great, Fiona. I appreciate you recommending Sam. The easiest thing to tell her is that:
a. A strong endorsement of your character or work:
e.g. You're very pleased with the work we've done;
b. How you want to be introduced:
e.g. “You highly recommend that she at least have a conversation with me,” and;
c. Permission for YOU to contact THEM:
“Is it okay if I give her a call sometime?" (keep this vague)
This wording is very non-threatening and does not make you sound needy. Note the third part: that you are getting permission to call and not letting them simply pass on your business card leaving you no further course of action but to sit by your phone and stare at it until it rings!
If you specialise in a certain niche market, that’s worth including in part a). If you are building a specialisation, you could mention that, too. People would much rather work with a specialist than a jack of all trades:
Example 2 of Coaching an Introducer.
a) You're very pleased with the work we've been doing and that I specialise in helping charitable foundations/people in exact situation a/b/c /people in specific vocation a/b/c/people who do exactly what you do;
b) You highly recommend that she at least have a conversation with me, and;
c) Would it be okay if I gave her a call in the near future?"
“Tell them that I work with a lot of people in the gay and lesbian community and that you’ve been really pleased with the progress you’ve made.”
“Tell them I specialise in helping dentists/people who have just been downsized, etc.”
Example 3 of Coaching an Introducer:
Find out what your current referral sources are telling others because that already works!
John is a client of mine who, in 20 years, never asked for referrals until we started working together. Last week he got eight quality referrals in three days. In four months of our work, the return on his investment so far is £25,000. Here’s something he learned from a client of his who had referred him unsolicited business:
“Just say to your friend what another client of mine says: ‘I don’t know how happy you are with the person you’re working with, but John is wonderful! And find out if it’s okay for me to call him.”
Now, he may change the word “wonderful” depending on who he is talking with, but it is simple and it works.
Example 4 of Coaching an Introducer: an e-mail or a follow up thank-you note.
This is helpful when coaching others how to refer you. Why? Because having it in black and white can help people remember what to say about you. Or, if they are most comfortable emailing, it works much better for you to write it. People are too busy to take that time and you can craft your message better than they can.
It also gives you an excuse to “assume” the referral by sending a gentle reminder and coach the referral source what to say:
Great meeting you today. Thanks again for talking to your manager to see if she’d be open to hearing from me.
All you need to tell her is that you’ve been very pleased with the work we’ve done; that you highly recommend that she at least have a quick conversation with me; and is it okay if I give her a call sometime?
I’ll probably drop you a line in a couple of weeks. Hope your son’s swimming tournament goes well this weekend!
Here’s a more business-specific example used by one of my former clients (two business partners). They ask their client to forward this on to the potential prospect:
I hope life is treating you well since we were last in touch. I wanted to mention a couple of people who are well connected networkers and who have taken care of several of my clients.
I don’t know how pleased you are about all of your current financial relationships, but Bryan (Beauchamp) and Sy (Maleki) are not only terrific people, but they are also widely regarded as being at the top of their industry.
Their primary specialty is working with owners of businesses like yours. Even if you feel like you have everything sorted, it would still be a good use of your time to meet them.
Would you be open to getting together for golf or a drink after work in the near future with Bryan and me? If so, please let me know what dates fit into your diary.
DO IT! Don’t make the mistake of assuming your referral source has the gift of the gab. Get increasingly used to taking charge of teaching them what to say.
Matt Anderson, of the Referral Authority, specialises in coaching how to get more and better referrals. He is the author of Fearless Referrals and blogs at www.TheReferralAuthority.com
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