By Julia Payne and David Bowler, Incisive Edge, www.incisive-edge.com

The general public want to 'buy' they do not want to be 'sold' to. They want to be helped and guided through the process not pushed through the selling process. The salesman is now no longer the only source of information, the customer can find out as much if not more from the internet. The whole traditional sales process has become obsolete and the market place has been altered permanently.

We are overloaded by persistent information which makes it more important than ever to develop referrals and schemes with partners to break through all this and be the first person your referrals contact.

There is a vast sum of money invested yearly to build attractive brands.

Once this asset is built it is sent out into the market place in waves these days through various mediums. Email, blogs, video, networking sites, direct mail, newsletters and some of the more traditional ways. All of these are now used in strategic plans to find qualified leads and opportunities.

Referral Alliances

There is a way to develop good leads without spending lots of money, referrals found through business partners. This takes an initial investment in time working with people to develop relationships. In today's society where we are all bombarded with information it is more important than ever to build these relationships in order to be the person in line for the next opportunity. However it is common for companies and salespeople not to invest time in this strategy. Often they are meant to do this but more often than not they don't implement it. Below are listed three common mistakes that are made in building business partner relationships.

1. Qualify you referral generating partners

First look at your possible referral partners. Be objective, they need to be qualified just like prospects. Key to this is whether the partner is in line with your company's views, objectives and goals. Think!

Look at the way your partner treats their customers. Are their clients 'die hard' fans or is your partner just bringing in cash.

Who are your partner's target audience? If you need high level opportunities and your partners work in the mid market then this is of no use for you. This results in relationships that are not value add and you are now in the market of the price war.

Are you matched in your investment activities and opinions? If you develop and sell on value and your partner sells on price, any lead or opportunity here will be cheap. Look at the relationship your partner has with their customers. If they are just buyers your introductions will not match your business profile. Often companies that are just vendors have a company climate where people are not valued which will result in a mismatch.

2 Matching Partner Business Philosophy.

A good marriage or friendship is based on trust and give and take with an interest in the other. This should be no different in a business partnership. One problem with some sales people is they work on output without really getting to know the referral or their partnerships. Look beyond the basic information of your partnership.

Think about such issues as why you are in business and not just the answer 'money'. What is the main reason your customers work with you and not one of your competitors. Has your company done anything or added anything to increase your value to your customer? What is your USP?

3 Maintain communication

The basis for a good referral partnership is one of reciprocation and generosity. A good referral partner should be looking for two opportunities,one for themselves and one for their partners in business. Be willing to work on building your relationships.

For example rather than your partner sending you an email that says, call Fred and use my name, a good partner will actually ring the 'Fred' and discuss the opportunity and in so doing will qualify or disqualify the lead for you. This does take time but you are investing in making yourself or your company into the one who not just has contacts to one who has the relationships with the marketplace.

Maximise your systems to reach your marketplace. They may be more effective than just people's good will alone.

Referrals, it has been shown, are many times better than leads from marketing or cold calls. Once you have the introduction to someone don't just leave them alone. Check how your business partner likes to be kept in touch. You will find that some like to be included in all marketing information; some may like just a regular contact while others just want a periodic report.

Always keep note of your successes and share those with your partners. It is important for them to know how their leads work for you.

So, in summary, to support your marketing strategy always qualify your partners and be a good partner yourself.