Sales and Sales Management Blog

March 31, 2008

Pump Up Your Pipeline Using the 5 by 5 Referral Method

You’re probably aware that it’s getting tougher to find qualified prospects and turn them into clients. It’s getting tougher to make your numbers, and to maintain, much less increase your commissions. Working the phones, sending out direct mail, faxing fliers, buying ads, haunting the halls of the chamber networking night aren’t producing what you need.

It’s time to look inward. No, I’m not suggesting you look inside yourself, although that’s also a good idea; rather look inside your database of clients. Your database has more sales locked up in it than you will probably ever find through any prospecting or marketing strategies you employ.

There simply isn’t a more effective or profitable prospecting or marketing strategy you can use than generating quality referrals from your clients. Your database is the single most valuable asset you own. Right this second your database of clients has a lifetime of commissions locked up in it. That’s true whether your database has 200 clients or 20,000.

If that’s true, how do you unlock those sales? To tap your database and to build a referral-based business you must learn a comprehensive, disciplined, logical, effective referral generation process. Learning such a process takes time, energy, commitment and work.

But you don’t have the time to learn a new process, you need sales now, you say. Well, here’s the good news. You can begin to tap your database and generate quality referrals—and new business–while you learn the process of referral generation that will keep you from being in the position you are now.

The 5 by 5 Referral Generation Short cut

Although you must learn a disciplined referral generation process if you want to put your sales business on solid ground where you don’t have to scramble, dig, and discount for business, you can put a nice pop in your pipeline by instituting the 5 by 5-method of getting referrals from your clients.

The 5 by 5 method is not a permanent solution to your pipeline woes. For most, this is a short burst of new blood in their pipeline. A permanent solution only comes from learning and instituting a full referral generation process. However, the 5 by 5-method allows you to generate 15 to 25 high quality referrals in a matter of less than a week. If you work the referrals correctly, you should see a nice jump in your sales very quickly.

Here are the steps you need to take to make the 5 by 5-method work:

1. Sit down with your database and find 5 of your best clients. These are not necessarily the 5 biggest clients you have. Look for 5 clients that you know well, have an excellent relationship with, and that fit what you consider to be your ideal client profile.

2. Once you have identified your 5 clients, think about whom each of these clients know or probably know that you know you want to be referred to. You may have to do a little research on potential prospects that you believe your client may know. For example, if your client were the owner of a small engineering company, what other engineering companies would you like to be referred to? Don’t know? Do some research. What vendors of your client do you know you want to be referred to? Again, you may have to do a little research. What customers of your client do you want to be referred to? Yes, you may have to do a little research.

3. Once you have your list of 5 potential referrals from each of your 5 clients, it is time to approach the client. At this point, we are assuming you’ve selected your clients and your potential referrals carefully. The more care you take in your selection of each, the better the results you will have in both getting the referrals and converting the referred prospects to clients.

Since these are clients that you know well and with whom you have an excellent relationship, simply call and ask for a short appointment. Your request for referrals will be more successful, more comfortable, and more professional if you ask in person rather than over the phone or through an email.

When you meet with your client, explain that there are some folks you’ve been trying to connect with but haven’t had success and it dawned on you that your client might well know them. Ask your client for permission to ask them about each of your 5 potential referrals. If you’ve selected your potential referral prospects well, you client will probably know anywhere from 3 to 5 of them. If they know them, they will give you the referral.

By the end of the week, you should have at least 15 to 20—and possibly as many as 25—referrals to people or companies you know you want to be referred to.

4. Once you have your referrals, don’t rush off and call them. Ask your client for a direct introduction through a letter (written by you for your client’s signature), a phone call to the prospect (with you on the call also), or a lunch meeting with the three of you. You don’t want a “referral,” you want an introduction from your client directly to the referred prospect.

5. After the introduction, keep your client informed of what is happening with the prospect. Your client wants to know what is going on not only because they want to know they have helped you, but also because they want to know that you haven’t messed up with someone they referred you to. Reassure them that all is well.

If you would like more detail on how to execute each of these points, you’ll find much more detail in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals. However, if you follow the above process, you should be able to generate a large number of high quality referrals fast—and pump some new blood into your pipeline in no time at all.

By the way, you can expand this to 5 X 10 or even a 10 X 10 method if your relationships are strong and you are willing to invest the time in giving serious consideration to whom your client might know that they can refer you to.

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March 30, 2008

March 29, 2008

Guest Article: “Problem Solving Is The Bedrock of Successful Marketing,” by Jonathan Farrington

Filed under: marketing,Problem Solving — Paul McCord @ 5:41 am
Tags: , ,

Problem Solving Is The Bedrock Of Successful Marketing
By Jonathan Farrington

The human mind is a computer. You program your computer by the input you feed into it: learning, knowledge, experience and so on. If you program your mind with images of failure, you will fail. If you build a bank of success images, your computer will direct you to success.

How do you build and input images of success into your computer?

By creativity. . .by thinking.

The fruit of thinking is knowledge; and knowledge is the medium from which skills are built.

In skills learning, there are four steps:

Step One:

The Unconscious Incompetent. They don’t know that they don’t know. The salesperson that is making mistakes, but is not aware of them.

Step Two:

The Conscious Incompetent. They know that they don’t know. This is the beginning of wisdom. The salesperson that is aware they are not cashing in on their full potential and wants to learn how to improve.

Step Three:

The Conscious Competent. They have learned and are aware of what they have learned — and they use it! They know why! The salesperson who knows how to make a successful approach call and can programme and execute their presentation to achieve their objectives.

Step Four:

The Unconscious Competent. They have learned so well that they use their knowledge with a semi-automatic skill. Their skills have reached a level where they are no longer self-centred. They are free to devote their efforts to the needs of others. The professional salesperson who does the right things to get results, but functions without conscious attention to what they are dong or why.

Note that I say semi-automatic. Even the Unconscious Competent should have the ability and the sharpness to call forth self-awareness.

Purposeful self-awareness, plus a knowing application of skill, generates maximum personal horsepower.

The handmaiden of creativity is imagination. Imagination is the well that brings forth the new ideas that are essential to your growing success.

Brainstorming is the way to keep imagination active, fresh and alive.

These are the rules of brainstorming new ideas:

• Quantity: Numbers; the more ideas, the greater percentage of success

• No criticism: Don’t pre-judge any idea until you have a basket full to pick from. This is the key. Judgment tends to inhibit imagination

• Free-wheeling: Don’t reject an idea because it is unusual or “off the wall”

• Combinations: Combine ideas and see what kind of offspring they produce.

Only after you’ve exhausted all possible ideas do you start the process of selecting and evaluating. The aim of creativity is problem solving. That’s the essence of successful selling.

The foremost function of the mind is problem solving, we solve problems with our imagination and imagination is a function of our creative ability. A creative salesperson is a problem-solver.

The basics of the selling process:

• Determine desire

• Present the product to satisfy desire

• Help the prospect find the right reasons for a favourable decision

Selling is nothing more than an exercise in problem solving. By constantly keeping your imagination and creativity at work, you will develop the best attitude for problem solving. You will build an unending source of ideas. You will become an idea producer and this will be your source of “value add” that will differentiate you from your competitor.

Differentiate Between Activity and Accomplishment:

Activity relates to being busy but accomplishment equates to getting meaningful things done. It takes energy to fail. The successful salesperson channels their energy into creative, productive channels leading to pre-defined goals.

Accomplishment is measured by the amount of creativity involved.

And Finally: Value Added Asks:

“What service or benefit can I add to what I give my customer, other than my product?”

Not just service in the sense of speedy delivery, prompt follow-up and personal attention, which are normal adjuncts of any real sale. . .but a real plus idea, something extra of value to him beyond the immediate transaction. . .that goes beyond the nine dots of your job. . .

Value Add, through idea giving, is the ingredient that earns you the right to ask for the order, and to expect it!

Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author and consultant, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. He is Chairman of The Sales Corporation based in London and Paris. His highly popular blog can be found at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk

Paul McCord of the Sales and Sales Management Blog can be reached at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com

March 28, 2008

Changing Roles for Sales Management? Audio Interview of Keith Rosen

Below you’ll find my interview of Keith Rosen, President of Profit Builders and author of the newly published Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions. Keith discusses the changing role of sales management, why sales managers waste so much time on under performers, and how managers can add real value to the organization.

Keith is the executive sales coach most salespeople and managers go to first. A prominent, engaging speaker and Master Certified Coach, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on assisting people to achieve positive, measurable change. A best selling author, Keith has written a number of books including Time Management for Salespeople and, of course, his latest book, Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions.

Recognized by Inc Magazine and Fast Company as one of the most respected and influential executive coaches, Keith’s work is regularly featured in Selling Power Live, Sales and Marketing Management, CBSNews, Entrepreneur, and other publications. Visit his websites at Profit Builders and Coaching Salespeople or contact him at 515-771-1444 or via email at info@profitbuilders.com

The total interview is about 50 minutes.

rosen-interview-1.mp3

rosen-interview-2.mp3

rosen-interview-3.mp3

Rosen Interview Part 4


Paul McCord of the Sales and Sales Management Blog can be reached at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com

March 27, 2008

Guest Article: “6 Surefire Techniques to “Ramp-up” The Success of Your Headline,” by Joe Heller

6 Surefire Techniques To “Ramp-up” The Success of Your Headline
By Joe Heller

What are the key headline qualities that work every time? Or why do some headlines produce extraordinary results and others fail miserably?

Truth is… winning headlines all share the ability to cut through the clutter of competing messages to deliver a hard-hitting, unmistakable message to a specific group of prospects.

Great headlines are those that not only get noticed, but also draw the reader inside with a magic-like spell. Whenever you find yourself reading deep inside the body copy of a message, chances are you were pulled inside by the magnetic appeal of a carefully constructed and targeted headline.

The most successful headlines contain at least one (and many times, several) of the key headline qualities listed below. When writing your own headlines, review this list and make sure you’re on target.

Headline Tip — #1: Great Headlines Are Arresting. Job one for any headline — whether it’s a display ad, brochure, or sales letter — is to arrest attention. Without first capturing the eyes of your prospects, your message doesn’t stand much of a chance. Without a powerful, concise message, prospects will be gone elsewhere, in the blink of an eye.

Living in the midst of the information age, each of us is inundated with a huge, continuous explosion of messages from all directions and an unlimited number of sources. It can be overwhelming at times — even futile — when we realize how impossible it would be to pay attention to it all, even with 48 hours to a day!

With this in mind, your headline has to make the reader stop dead in her tracks to ponder your idea, concept, startling statement, or intriguing question. Your headline’s mission is to consume your reader’s focus, capture her imagination and momentarily mesmerize with your captivating collection of words.

Headline Tip — #2: Great Headlines Are Interruptive. Customers and prospects are mentally pre-occupied with various thoughts of their own. Every prospect is busy living her life. An interruptive headline has the ability to shift the reader’s attention and focus from their current thoughts, towards your message. It’s a break, a temporary thought suspension that you want to create with your headline.

Being interruptive means being able to get the prospect to shift her concentration with something that is new, timely, or important to her life — something that is sure to get attention. To pull this off successfully requires a good understanding of your target market and a powerful headline that addresses a deeply held desire or solution to a problem.

Headline Tip — #3: Great Headlines Are Provocative. The provocative headline is one that instigates a reaction in the reader. It delivers a mental nudge, designed to involve the prospect in some way. A provocative headline is difficult to ignore — particularly when it’s narrowly focused on a specific audience — because it tempts, teases, or tantalizes the reader.

Provocative headlines command the attention of those they address by asking questions, delivering surprising or shocking statements, and by establishing a connection to a news story or event.

Headline Tip — #4: Great Headlines Are Compelling. A compelling headline draws like a magnet because it hits at the heart of the reader’s deep desire. These headlines pull the reader inside. They fuel an existing desire for more by offering a huge promise — something the prospect wants, and wants badly.

The secret to a compelling headline is the suggestion of a payoff of some kind. The closer the match between promised payoff and deeply rooted desire, the more effective the headline will be.

The compelling headline places a powerful thought in the mind of the prospect — something she cannot easily forget. It stays with her until the desire has been satisfied, (often by placing an order) or, until she loses interest. The anticipation and desire builds so the prospect is literally compelled to stay with the message to satisfy a nagging hunger.

Headline Tip — #5:
Great Headlines Arouse Curiosity. Prospects are pulled inside to the heart of a message by their desire to find out more. Often it’s the result of a surprising statement, shocking news, a new discovery, or a new way to solve an age-old problem. The best curiosity-arousing headlines combine curiosity with a major benefit of interest to the prospect.

Once the reader’s curiosity has been piqued, her interest naturally intensifies. The more thought she gives to the subject, the stronger the curiosity grows — as well as the desire to satisfy it. What it all boils down to is greater exposure to your entire message over a longer period of time.

Headline Tip — #6: Great Headlines Deliver Big Benefits. It’s these major advantages or benefits that all buyer want. Benefits represent the true payoff. Benefits answer the “What’s in it for me?” question. Every prospect has their built-in radar set to a “benefits-only” frequency. It’s the benefits you offer that win the attention and interest of your audience.

What is it your prospects would like to have or achieve? What problem would your prospect most like to solve? Headlines that present strong benefits are headlines that capture attention and interest. When you speak in terms of benefits, you’re speaking your prospect’s language.

Implement these key headline qualities in your ad copy and you’ll attract a larger, more interested audience.

Joe Heller of Trust Cycle Selling is a world-renowned sales trainer and consultant with clients across the world. Joe’s philosophy is to tie his rewards to those of the clients he serves. Joe travels over 100,000 miles a year while maintaining his active consulting and writing activities. Visit him at http://www.joeheller.com.

Paul McCord of the Sales and Sales Management Blog may be reached at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com

March 26, 2008

Guest Article: “Trust in Business: The Core Concepts,” by Charles H. Green

Trust in Business: The Core Concepts
By Charles H. Green

Trust relationships are vital to the conduct of business. Some base level of trust is required just to have employment contracts, or to engage in commercial transactions. Beyond such minimum thresholds, trust also plays a major role.

The level of trust in business relationships—whether external, e.g. in sales or advisory roles, or internal, e.g. in a services function—is a greater determinant of success than anything else, including content excellence.

How can we think about trust? What conceptual frameworks do we need in order to intelligently assess and improve on trust relationships, and in particular on our levels of trustworthiness?

This article lays out the core trust models I have developed and adopted over the years. They are taken from The Trusted Advisor (with Maister and Galford, Free Press, 2000), and Trust-based Selling (McGraw-Hill, 2006). There are three.

1. The Trust Equation: a deconstructive, analytical model of the components of trustworthiness;

2. The Trust Creation Process: a process model of trust creation through personal interaction—mainly conversations;

3. The Trust Principles: four principles, or values, which serve as guides to decision-making and conduct to increase trust.

The Trust Equation

Trust is a bi-lateral relationship—one trusts, and the other is the trusted. While the two are related, they’re not the same thing. The trust equation is a model for the second—the one who would be trusted. It is about trustworthiness.

Often we intend more than one thing when we use the word trust. We use it to describe what we think of what people say. We also use it to describe behaviors. We use it to describe whether or not we feel comfortable sharing certain information with someone else. And we use the same word to indicate whether or not we feel other people have our interests at heart, vs. their own interests.

Those four variables can be described as Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and Self-Orientation. They can be combined in an equation.

The Trust Equation
Trust Equasion
Credibility has to do with the words we speak. In a sentence, we might say, “I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she is very credible on the subject. By contrast, reliability has to do with actions. We might say, for example, “If he says he’ll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he’s dependable.”

Intimacy refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something. We might say, “I can trust her with that information; she’s never violated my confidentiality before, and she would never embarrass me.”

Self-orientation refers to the focus of the person in question. In particular, whether the person’s focus is primarily on himself or herself or on the other person. We might say, “I can’t trust him on this deal—I don’t think he cares enough about me, he’s focused on what he gets out of the deal.” Or—more commonly—“I don’t trust him—I think he was too concerned about how he was appearing, so he wasn’t really paying attention.”

Increasing the value of the factors in the numerator increases the value of trust. Increasing the value of the denominator—that is, self-orientation—decreases the value of trust.

Since there is only one variable in the denominator and three in the numerator, the most important factor is self-orientation. This is intentional. A seller with low self-orientation is free to really, truly, honestly focus on the customer. Not for his own sake, but for the sake of the customer. Such a focus is rare among salespeople (or people in general, for that matter).

Looking at trust this way covers most of the common meanings of trust that we encounter in everyday business interactions. Note that the meanings are almost entirely personal, not institutional.

People don’t primarily trust institutional entities, they trust other people. The components of credibility and reliability are sometimes used to describe companies or Websites, but at least as often to describe people. The other components—intimacy and self-orientation—are almost entirely about people.

Trust in selling requires good “scores” on all four variables in the equation. But the most important, by far, is low levels of self-orientation.

Living the four trust values is the best way to increase your trustworthiness.


The Trust Creation Process

Trust typically gets created at the individual level, between people, and usually in conversations. The Trust Creation Process is a five-step model for that process:
Trust Process

1. Engage the client in an open discussion about issues that are key to the client;

2. Listen to what is important and real to the client; earn the right to offer solutions;

3. Frame the true root issue, without the language of blame, via caveats, problem statements and hypotheses; take personal risks to explore sensitive issues—articulate a point of view; create by giving away;

4. Envision an alternate reality, including win-win specific descriptions of outcomes and results, including emotional and political states; clarify benefits—make clear what’s at stake; be tangible about future states;

5. Commit to actionable next steps that imply significant commitment and movement on the part of each party.

The order in which these sentences occur in a conversation has as much impact as the sentences themselves. That is, you could do a wonderful job on framing the issue or on the commitment to action—but if you do them before you do listening, then the trust process breaks down, or freezes. This becomes clearer when we translate the trust creation process into a sales context, as follows:

Engage: I hear X may be an issue for you—is that right?

Listen: Gee, that’s interesting; tell me more; what’s behind that?

Frame: It sounds like what you may have here is a case of Q.

Envision: How will things look three years from now if we fix this?

Commit: What if we were to do Z?

The most powerful step in the Trust Creation Process by far is the Listening step. The two most common errors in practice are:

a. Inadequate listening, and
b. Jumping too quickly to the final, action, step.

The Trust Principles

Being or becoming trustworthy cannot be reduced to pure behaviors. You can’t bottle it in a competency model. Our actions are driven by our beliefs, and our beliefs are driven by our values or principles. Trustworthy behavior is way too complex to fake without the beliefs and values behind them. If your values don’t drive you to behave in a trustworthy manner all the time, you’ll be found out quickly.

Hence, the Trust Equation and the way we use the Trust Creation Process model are really just outcomes of the principles we hold. The way to become trusted is to act consistently from those principles—and not just any set of principles will do. There are four specific principles governing trustworthy behavior:

1. A focus on the Other (client, customer, internal co-worker, boss, partner, subordinate) for the Other’s sake, not just as a means to one’s own ends.

We often hear “client-focus,” or “customer-centric.” But these are terms all-too-often framed in terms of economic benefit to the person trying to be trusted.

2. A collaborative approach to relationships.

Collaboration here means a willingness to work together, creating both joint goals and joint approaches to getting there.

3. A medium to long term relationship perspective, not a short-term transactional focus.

Focus on relationships nurtures transactions; but focus on transactions chokes off relationships. The most profitable relationships for both parties are those where multiple transactions over time are assumed in the approach to each transaction.

4. A habit of being transparent in all one’s dealings.

Transparency has the great virtue of helping recall who said what to whom. It also increases credibility, and lowers self-orientation, by its willingness to keep no secrets.

Applying these principles to all of our actions will develop the fullest possible sort of trusting relationship.
Copyright 2008, Charles H. Green.

Charles H. Green is one of the world’s foremost authorities on building and maintaining trust in business relationships. Visit his website at http://www.trustedadvisor.com

Paul McCord of the Sales and Sales Management Blog may be reached at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com

March 25, 2008

Guest Article: “Truth, Trust & the Economic Mess–A Rant,” by Randy Pennington

Filed under: Economy,management,trust — Paul McCord @ 4:45 am
Tags: , , ,

Truth, Trust & the Economic Mess – A Rant
By Randy G. Pennington

Stock markets throughout the world are experiencing more ups, downs, and sharp turns than the roller coaster that scared you to death as a youngster. And the root cause for the pain and suffering you are now experiencing is … truth and trust.

More precisely, the absence of truth and trust is the culprit.

Despite what some would have you believe, there is money to be loaned – plenty of it. Most banks just don’t want to loan it to you. They don’t even want to loan it to each other.

The reason is simple: they lack the trust that they will be told the truth about the lendee’s ability and commitment to repay.

It is easy to understand why financial institutions are reluctant to loan money. They were told that the sub-prime mortgages would be re-paid, that real estate would hold his value, and that the loans they bought from other financial institutions were all great quality.

Now even people with good credit are stiffing the lenders. There are growing incidents of people with incomes to pay the increased interest on their adjustable rate mortgage simply walking away because their house has plummeted in value. These individuals are making a “business decision” to damage their credit and rent a house for five years rather than honor their commitments.

Economists talk about market liquidity, the difference between the 2-year and 10-year Treasuries, and other technical financial stuff, but it comes down to fact that the risk of loaning money is greater than the potential reward for doing so.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of the quality movement, once said, “Without trust, there is no cooperation between people, teams, departments, divisions. Without trust, each department will protect its own immediate interests, to its long-term detriment and the detriment of the entire system.”

Substitute the words “financial institutions” in Deming’s quote, and you have a concise explanation of what’s going on in the market place.

What does this mean for you?

On an economic level, you can expect the roller coaster ride to continue. Nothing ever changes until we tell ourselves the truth. And right now, the banks and markets are not yet admitting how bad things are. The term “recession” doesn’t really mean much. A GDP growth of anything less than 1.5% still looks and feels like bad news.

Let’s look beyond the numbers to understand what is really going on – greed and the lure of short-term profit has over taken honor and integrity as the ultimate basis for doing business for a significant number of Americans.

The mortgage brokers and bankers who fudged applicant income to enable people to purchase more house than they could afford? They are guilty.

The individuals who didn’t tell themselves the truth about the size of mortgage they could responsibly take on? They are guilty.

The mortgage companies who packaged and bought loans without doing due diligence? They are guilty as well.

The home builders who put people in homes they should not have been in so they could make money from the financing? They are guilty, too.

There is plenty of blame to go around in this mess, and it could have been avoided had those involved simply operated from a position of truth and trust.

I am for making a profit. I believe turning a healthy profit is a good thing. And, I also believe that there are times when the best course of action is to tell ourselves the truth about the long-term impact of our decisions and choose to do what is right rather than what is easy.

Banks will start making loans again later this year. Gregory Miller, Chief Economist at Sun Trust Banks, recently said, “A time will come when greed overtakes fear.”

At that point, companies will ramp up hiring, consumers will ramp up spending, the dollar will stabilize, and a feeling that things are getting back to normal will begin to take root. That is the good news.

The bad news is we have been here before. History tells us that there will be another bubble or crisis of some sort in ten to twenty years. At that point, we’ll have another opportunity to see if we have learned anything from the past.

In the meantime, get ready for a bumpy ride over the next six to nine months.

And most important, use this as a lesson about the pitfalls that occur when truth and trust are sacrificed at the alter of irrational expedience in any business relationship. A failure to learn that truth creates unhealthy friction in the marketplace that hurts us all.

Randy Pennington helps leaders create cultures focused on results, relationships, and accountability. For additional information or to schedule Randy for your organization: contact via telephone at 972/980-9857; e-mail at Mary@penningtongroup.com; or on the World Wide Web at http://www.penningtongroup.com or http://www.resultsrule.com. Send comments to Randy@penningtongroup.com.

Paul McCord of the Sales and Sales Management Blog may be reached at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com

March 24, 2008

Why Referrals Are The King of Marketing–Just Not for You

Are you one of the more than 85% of all salespeople, professionals and business owners who are finding it difficult to get quality referrals from your customers and clients or, worse, have simply given up even asking for them?

Is your pipeline hurting?  Are you beating the bushes for new clients without success?

Are you wondering how in the world you’re going to survive with a recession on the horizon when things are this tough now?

You’re not alone.  There are millions of salespeople, professionals and business owners in the same predicament.  And more are joining you every day.

Despite the slowing economy, the increased competition, the seemingly never ending bad news about the economy, and the havoc these wreck upon your psyche, there are ways to generate a solid, consistent, quality base of prospects—even in the worst economy.

Referrals from your current client base to others who know, trust and respect your clients are the single best marketing method you have at your disposal.  Yes, even for the 85% of salespeople, professionals, and business owners who have found referrals to be almost impossible to generate—or who have given up on them.

Salespeople and sales trainers have spent decades studying the various aspects of selling.  Salespeople and companies will spend millions upon millions of dollars this year studying the intricacies of cold calling.  Millions more will be invested in learning how to overcome objections, how to write the prefect direct mail piece, how to close, what questions to ask, how to persuade, how to negotiate, how to network effectively, and dozens of other strategies and techniques of the sales process.

Yet, almost nothing will be spent on learning how to generate referrals.

Why?  Why do salespeople, companies and sales trainers take the most effective and most cost efficient marketing method there is so lightly?  Why do they invest so little time and energy on the most important prospect generation tool a salesperson has?

The problem with getting referrals isn’t with the concept of referrals or with your clients or even with you.  The problem with generating referrals is that you and almost everyone else has treated referrals as nothing more than a question tossed at your client at the end of the sale.  If you are like most you’ve been taught that referrals are an after-thought, a simple request, nothing more than a last second question.

The root of the problem is a complete misunderstanding of referrals.  Referrals are treated as a sideshow to selling–when it fact they should be in the center ring.  They’re treated as nothing more than a question–when in fact they are a process.  They are viewed as nothing more than a simple request–when in fact that question is tied to the very psychology and personal image of your client.

Why are referral-based salespeople generally top producers and non-referral-based salespeople generally run of the mill?  Is it because the referral-based salesperson is luckier?  Is it because they’re better looking or more likable?  Is it because they have better clients?

No.

For the majority of referral-based salespeople the answer is none of the above.  They don’t count on luck, likeability, or any other excuse to explain their success.  They are successful because they’ve learned something the vast majority of salespeople, professionals, business owners, sales managers and even sales trainers haven’t learned—generating referrals isn’t just a simple little question at the end of a sale.

They’ve learned that generating referrals is a complete, learned, disciplined process, just like every other part of the sales process.  They learned that generating referrals isn’t easy.  If it were, every salesperson would be generating a ton of high quality referrals.

They’ve learned that the way the majority of salespeople ask for referrals is bound to fail.

They’ve learned that the way the majority of salespeople have been taught to ask for referrals is the most ineffective method anyone could imagine.

They’ve learned that if you don’t understand the psychology of your client and how to deal with your client’s psychological need for reassurance and confidence before giving referrals, your request is a waste of both your client’s and your time.

They’ve learned that referrals are not a simple request but are instead a partnership between your client and yourself, that you are asking your client to become a partner in your business and clients don’t take that request lightly.

Despite what you may have been taught about referrals, if you want to generate enough high quality referrals to make a real impact on your business, you must treat referrals like any other part of the sales process.  You must invest your time and energy in learning
•  How to prepare your client to give referrals
•  Why giving you referrals is in your client’s best interests
•  Why your clients are reluctant to give quality referrals and how to overcome that reluctance
•  Why you must help your clients give referrals and how to make giving high quality referrals easy for your client
•  How to contact the referred prospect in ways that will ensure you gain an appointment with them.

Finding quality prospects and turning them into clients is getting tougher and tougher.  As the economy continues to slow, finding and converting prospects will continue to get tougher.  You don’t have to sit and watch your pipeline shrivel and die.  You can do something about it.  You can learn how to use the most effective and efficient prospecting tool you have.  You just can’t do it the way 85% of other salespeople do it.

If you do what the majority of salespeople do, you’ll have the same results they have—failure.  You cannot do what isn’t working for the vast majority of salespeople and believe that your results will miraculously be different from their results.

Referrals work.  They are the king of prospecting and marketing.  But like any king, treat them with contempt and disrespect and you’ll not be granted their favors.  However, if you want the rewards they can bestow, you’ll have to honor them with your time and energy to learn how to make them work for you.

It’s a simple choice.  Toil as you are and continue to watch your pipeline dissolve away, or learn what the majority of your competitors and associates won’t—how to use the most effective prospecting and marketing tool in your toolbox.

Paul McCord is the president of McCord and Associates, a Houston based sales training and coaching company that specializes in lead generation and personal marketing.  He is the author of Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), the authoritative work on referral generation, and the newly released SuperStar Selling: 12 Keys to Becoming a Sales SuperStar.  He may be reached at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com or visit his website at http://www.mccordandassociates or his highly popular blog at http://salesandmanagementblog.com.

Copyright 2008, Paul McCord.  Article may be reproduced without change, with proper attribution, a short bio, and contact information.  Please notify by email of when and where article will appear to pmccord@mccordandassociates.com

March 23, 2008

A Day of Glory

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 7:03 am
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I wish each of you a happy and glorious Easter.  On this, our traditional day of celebrating the Resurrection, I hope each takes the opportunity to contemplate the message of Christ.  

This blog is read by many of different faiths—or no faith.  For us who are Christians, today is a day of celebration and recognition of what our faith and hope is based on.  Yet, even those who are not Christians can, I hope, take some time to consider the moral and ethical message Christ delivered, for it is a message for all mankind. 

In these trying times, His message of love and peace is needed now just as it was during His life.  

Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, agnostic or whatever, we are all imperfect people, living in an imperfect world.  Yet each of us is responsible for one another, irrespective of religion, color, or political view.  

May we each strive to fulfill His message in our lives, for we can only be responsible for what we do.  But if we each sought to live by the precepts He taught, we would make a fundamental change in the world in which we live.

March 22, 2008

Goals, Planning, and Real Change

How often have you been exhorted to set your goals down in writing? How often have you done it? How often have you immediately forgotten about them once you’ve completed the writing exercise?

Most of us have experienced the frustration of setting goals only see them fade away into nothingness. We never reach them. More than likely, we never think seriously about them after we’ve ‘established’ them. They make us feel good for a while but they’re really not something ‘that’s going to happen.’

That experience naturally leads us to ask whether goal setting is even an exercise worth our time and effort. Research by Dr. Peter Gollwitzer, Professor of Psychology at New York University, indicates that the answer is a resounding, “yes it is”—and an equally resounding, “no, it’s not.”

Setting goals in and of themselves will lead nowhere but to frustration and feeling guilt for not reaching them. Simply setting goals is fruitless because by themselves they result in no positive action. They simply state a wish, not a concrete objective.

In order for goals to be met, they must be accompanied by a definite, realistic action plan to reach them. In other words, knowing what your goal is will get you nowhere if you don’t know how you’re going to make it happen. Furthermore, according to Dr. Gollwitzer’s research, the very act of creating a detailed plan of action helps bring about the realization of the goal.

Allow me to quote a relatively lengthy summary passage of his research as presented in an article of his, “Metacognition in Action: the Importance of Implementation Intentions,” as published in Personality and Social Psychology Review. (emphasis added)

“When people furnish their goal intentions (“I intend to attain the goal X”) with implementation intentions
(“I will initiate the goal-directed response y when situation z arises”), the initiation of goal-directed
responses becomes automated
. As this type of automaticity stems from a single act of will, it is referred
to as strategic automaticity. We report various studies demonstrating that the strategic automaticity leads
to immediate and efficient responding
, which does not need a conscious intent. In addition, the situational
cues specified in implementation intentions seem to be easily detected and readily attended to. Further
research indicates that the strategic automaticity induced by implementation intentions also helps resist
temptation and fight bad habits
.”

In other words, the act of creating a detailed, step-by-step action plan generates “immediate and effective responding” to the situation to implement the plan without the need of “conscious intent.” If your plan is well thought-out, detailed and actionable (that is not vague or theoretical, but concrete), your mind will initiate the next steps necessary to work toward attaining your goal.

Other research by Dr. Gollwitzer indicates actionable goal planning is the primary differentiator between top producers and average and below average salespeople and managers. There is no magic to becoming a top producer or a top manager. The key is knowing where you want to go and how you’re going to get there—in detail, in realistic actionable steps.

Paul McCord is the author of SuperStar Selling: 12 Keys to Becoming a Sales SuperStar, a detailed guide to creating a real, workable, actionable sales and marketing plan and Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals. Paul’s work has appeared in such business and industry publications as Forbes, Business Week, Selling Power, Fox Business News, and other leading business and industry publications. Visit his website at http://www.mccordandassociates.com or his highly popular blog at http://salesandmanagementblog.com. He may be reached at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com.

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