Saturday, May 7, 2011

Three (of Many) Ways to Stop Getting Referrals

"More business? Who needs it? All these clients get in my way of thinking about myself. So, please stop helping me connect with people who want my products or services. I prefer to be poor and lonely."
In the past five days alone, I witnessed three instances of people saying the above to one of their trusted referral sources. Oh, they didn't say it in those exact words. In fact, two of them said nothing at all.

First instance: A long conversation with no mention of the help provided gaining entry to the discussed prospect company. "Why didn't you thank them for the referral?" "Didn't think of it." "Then, you might as well have said, 'F-You.'" Eye roll and head shake. "I've known her for years."

Second instance: A terse e-mail saying that the connection was not worthwhile, since the prospect was at least six months away from needing a bid. And the best part: " time, ask them when they might be making a decision before you send them my name." The person who showed me the e-mail needed no coaching. "No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose. There won't be a next time."

Third instance: Learning that business was actually sold … by the buyer, not the seller. This was another e-mail showed to me during a coaching session. The customer thanked the referrer for connecting him to the service provider. The connection was made weeks ago and there hadn't even been an acknowledgment from the person he referred.

> If someone refers you business, no matter ill-guided it might be: thank them!

When the lead has nothing to do with your products or services, there are still two thanks-worthy 'wins' here:
#1) You can use this an an opportunity to more clearly define your offerings to the referral source. (But be sure to make this a two-way street.)

#2) You now have a lead you can provide to someone else in your network.
But we're marketing folks, so we have to ensure our clients and people take the time to appreciate that their referral sources. They need a pointed way to understand that promoters are the engine to their business development. In short: We need a tactic.

It is common practice to create a list of key promoters/referral sources and match this to won business. This helps focus on which referral sources are really helping vs. the ones they believe are doing so. (How often this list differs!)

Now ask them to add all referred opportunities to this list, regardless of value or outcome. This list will reveal the referral sources who are trying the hardest. Often the ones trying hardest are also the ones who are most successful, but not always.

If they find someone who gets them lots of at bats, but few if no hits, see #1 above.

In any case, add a column next to the entire list. Head this column: "Thanked?" Tell them to find a way to put a check mark in each of these fields.

Also happened during the past five days and on a brighter note...
One of the people I coach added the following to our next meeting agenda: "______ has been fabulous to me lately. I want your help finding ways I can be fabulous back."

One final thought...
Many people think referrals only want quid pro quo. I'm not an idiot. I know that back scratchers also like their backs being scratched. But you can do this in more ways than simply referring them business. (A blog post for a future date.)

But, to the point of this post, you MUST start by showing your appreciation of their efforts on your behalf. Or, with all likelihood, it'll stop.

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