Running a small business in today’s economy requires a departure from conventional business rules. In order to sell a product or service, businesses can no longer rely upon old-school sales tactics of bygone eras: Prospects are overwhelmingly distrustful of the traditional sales pitch, they’re busier than ever and they have access to more information than ever before.
As a result, small business owners must master a new set of tactics in order to make sales. The key is to start with strong referrals.
It’s no secret that getting referrals from clients who believe in your services is an effective way to connect with new clients. But in today’s business world, it’s not enough to just get referrals -- they have to be strong, and there have to be lots of ‘em! Here are five ways to get lots of strong referrals:
1. Stop calling them "referrals"! Salespeople often tell me that when they ask for a referral, all they get is a name, a phone number and an instruction to “tell him I sent you.” This is not a referral -- it is, at best, a warm lead. The term “referral” is vague and unclear, which is why requests for them can frequently lead to disappointing outcomes. Instead of asking for referrals, ask for introductions. You want to be introduced directly to the person you want to meet, after all. The introduction can take place via face-to-face meeting, phone call, email exchange, or social media, but the key is that an actual introduction is made. Now, promise yourself you’ll never ask for a “referral” again!
2. Get over your fear and ask! I’ve done extensive research on what holds people back from getting more introductions, and it always comes back to the same issue: fear. Asking for introductions shows vulnerability and can feel uncomfortable. But the reality is that if you don’t ask, people will not think to introduce you. It’s your job to ask everyone in your network for introductions on a regular basis. The more you ask, the easier it becomes. In all of my years as a sales strategist, I’ve never heard of someone losing a client because they asked for an introduction. So what do you have to lose?
3. An introduction a day…really adds up. I have a challenge for you: Ask for one introduction every workday. It’s a task that takes less than five minutes, but it holds enormous potential for your business. Here’s how: One introduction per day equals five per week; five introductions per week equals 250 introductions per year. That’s a lot of introductions! Let’s say that you receive only one-in-five of the introductions you ask for -- that still means you’ll receive 50 introductions in one year. If you turn half of those introductions into sales, then you’ll have closed 25 new pieces of business. What are you waiting for?
4. Ask for help. Help. That simple four-letter word is one of the most powerful in the English language. When you ask for help, people generally want to give it to you. On the other hand, people are turned off by phony confidence and a reluctance to accept assistance. So ask for help when it comes to introductions, just as you would in any other context. Start the introduction conversation by saying, “I’m wondering if you might be able to give me a little help.” Let the person say that she is happy to help -- which she probably will be if you have any relationship at all. Then ask for the introduction to the type of prospect you’re looking to meet.
5. Help people help you. Salespeople frequently squander the chance to get introductions by not clearly explaining the exact type of prospect they’re looking to meet. When someone says that he’s willing to help you out with introductions, don’t respond, “Well, who do you know?” This forces the person to have to figure out which of the 1,000 people he knows to introduce you to. Instead, be laser-focused on the exact type of person you want to be introduced to. For example, you might say, “I’m looking to meet CEOs of companies with $10M-$40M in revenues in the healthcare space that are looking to grow sales.” When you get very specific, you narrow a person’s mental rolodex down to 1-3 people. Bingo!
When you focus on receiving more introductions (and actually take action!), your business can grow exponentially. If each of your clients introduced you to one new client, your business would double. By following these five simple strategies, you can bring on more clients without a massive effort.