Secrets of Getting Referrals . . .

In my past number of years in Business Coaching, I have mentored a number of clients on the successful process of “asking for referrals”. Be very careful here, the wrong method of asking for referrals can jeopardize your present and future relationship with your client or customer.

Two of the wrong strategies I have seen are:

1- “Begging” for a referral?

2- Assuming that you earned the right to ask.

The reality here is asking for referrals makes EVERYONE feel awkward. And asking for referrals usually results in a turndown, or a delay. I have had a number of times a delay went on for months.

 A referral is the second strongest lead in sales. The first is an unsolicited referral.

Earning the Right . . .

Referrals are not asked for – referrals are EARNED. So, how do you earn the right to ask for a referral? The right to ask for a referral is earned when you have created an exceptional customer services and have truly gone above and beyond the ‘normal’ business relationship. Once you surpass a ‘normal’ business relationship, you almost become more “friends” that customer/client relationship. Remember that friends don’t let friends down! Create a formalized process, which ‘touches’ all your clients or customers, and elevates your customers from . . .

Suspect > Prospect > Customer > Member > Advocate > Raving Fan

By elevating your customers to Raving Fans, you get referrals without asking for them. So, in your business or practice how many Raving Fans do you have? Do you have a method to stay in touch with your Raving Fans and all other categories above? Do you have a process to arrange for the introduction of the referral by the Raving Fan?

Give to Get

There are all kinds of names applied to the process of “giving” a referral to a customer- for example “pay it forward”. However, you are kidding yourself if you expect something in return.

Here is an email I received . . . “Sam, I can’t seem to ever get any referrals nor get my sales people to get referrals! We go back to the customer after the sale, we give them an appreciation gift and ask them for referrals and they say they don’t know anybody or don’t think anybody else can afford it? What do I do?”

The first mistake here is thinking that by bringing a gift to a new customer, that alone deserves a referral. Asking for referrals in this manner is not only a poor practice; it’s also rude and embarrassing. Before asking for a referral, ask yourself:

1- What have I earned so far?

2- Have I done anything besides just make a sale?

3- On a scale of 1-10, how strong is this relationship?

4- If I asked for a referral right now would it feel awkward?

5- Why would this customer give me a referral? If you can’t think of a reason, neither can your customer.

6- What can I do, that will get me where I want to be in the future?

Putting a strategy in place:

1. Do you have a documented referral process?

2. What are the value considerations that need to be (consistently) taken to earn referrals?

3. Do you deliver exceptional service? Are you exceptional, professional, pro-active, friendly, trusting, helpful, and give positive responses?

4- Are you available by email, telephone, fax, or text messaging (or, are you hiding behind the gatekeeper)? Make it as easy as possible to do business with everyone in your company 24/7/365.

5- Do you consistently provide exceptional value?

6- Have you created an email magazine, a White Paper, and a blog with content that helps customers? Where is your business Facebook page where you post positive and helpful information and allow for customer comments?

7- Paying it forward by giving a referral to a new or old customer.

8- Develop TRUST and grow the relationship slowly over time. Create your long-term value plan, and execute it consistently. Go ‘old school’ here and send a Thank You card, that is handwritten and delivered via USPS.

Conclusion:

DON’T ASK FOR A REFERRAL IF YOU HAVEN’T EARNED THE RIGHT FOR A REFERRAL. There’s a powerful message here. It’s about having a philosophy of giving, without the expectation of getting anything in return. This philosophy, will give you fulfillment without regret, remorse, or resentment.

Give to give. Don’t give to get.

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People are NOT your Greatest Asset . . ..

“People can’t serve as your company’s greatest assets unless you motivate them”, say Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald.

People are not your greatest asset. Even great people are not your greatest asset. In fact, great people can be your  liability.

So if it’s not people, what is your greatest asset?  The answer is how you empower your people. Think about it. What is the purpose of a business organization? To assemble a group of people, who previously may have had no association, and motivate them to accomplish a shared goal and align them to the organization’s objectives. More effective empowerment equals more productive work.

As leaders and managers, the real ‘job’ is to empower people. Therefore, we organize them into divisions, units, groups and teams. We provide goals and incentives to motivate them. And we provide them with authority, training, tools, resources and processes necessary to complete their task.

With the advent of Social media, there are new ways to enhance your greatest asset, because now you are empowering people to collaborate at unprecedented scale. With social media, we motivate people to form ‘communities’ around a meaningful and common purpose or job. We provide them with new technology and guidance, with the ultimate goal of creating “mass collaboration”.

“Collective Intelligence”

“Collective intelligence” is the formation of relatively small communities into a larger knowledge bank. Collective intelligence is not new, but the mass collaboration via social media provides a scale like never before thought possible. Even the most modest individual contributions can be impact, when combined at scale. Wikipedia, YouTube and Flickr are all social Web examples of collective intelligence. Each Wikipedia article by itself is relatively insignificant, but with the accumulation of millions of articles linked together, this becomes powerful.

Expertise Location

Expertise location is about finding specific expertise in the masses of people and the amount of available content.  The goal is not to collect numerous small contributions from many, but to find just what is needed. ‘Crowdsourcing’ is a well-known example of expertise location.

New Structures

The new structures are: the processes, the content, the categorizes, the organizational networks and the teams. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the true “nature of things” to effectively organize, guide or interact with a community or its efforts. Social media, applied with transparency, can implement these structures.

Interest Cultivation

Interest cultivation is the forming of communities around a shared interest or mission. Social media facilitates the mass sharing of interests like never before. Businesses often pursue interest cultivation with the aim of engaging customers to market product/services, improve delivery and increase sales.

Flash Coordination

A new concept involves the leveraging of a number of people into activities through short mass-messaging and texting.  By using flash coordination, companies can leverage a powerful and immediate response to an important occurrence.

Relationship Leverage

Relationship leverage is the practice of managing and creating value from a number of relationships. What you hope to do is maximize the strength of weak ties and the power of unbalanced relationships. For example, Facebook is all about relationship leverage. We can keep numerous people up to date on what we are doing and thinking with only minimal effort. Now, we only need to respond to those who choose to interact around something a common interest or theme. We sacrifice intimacy for scale, but that is the trade-off with relationship leverage.

Conclusion:

Examine these items in relation to your business strategic goals and plans, major customer challenges, and business practices.  Then determine where and how mass collaboration might empower your people to deliver value to your organization and enhance what is truly your greatest asset.

1-    As a leader, how are you empowering the next generation of leaders in your organization to exert their creative influence?

2-    As a leader, what are you doing to infuse the values of your organization into its systems and structures and to transfer those values to the next generation?

AIDA: Attention-Interest-Desire-Action

Every day I am bombarded with clever headlines designed to grab my attention. In an inbox full of advertising and information, every message has to work extremely hard to get noticed. Here are just a few example from today . . . .

“Wake-Up Call: Break Your Addiction”

“Whose Story are You Buying?”

Marketing Secrets of the ‘Buttlifter’“ (not a typo)

“See YOUR Traffic Grow Right Before Your Eyes”

As the world of advertising becomes more and more competitive, advertising becomes more and more sophisticated. The basic principles remain the same–

Here is what we have to offer

Here is what it will do for you

Here is how to get it

But first you need to grab and keep the prospects attention, and then get them to take the action you desire, such as buying your product or visiting your website.

First, Become Your Prospect

Stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a prospect.  You need to get into the prospect’s mind and influence them more effortlessly than ever before.  Your goal is to have your prospects feel an instant bond, and respond favorably to your perfectly matched message.  So where do you start? Start by answering the following questions . . .

Clearly define what your exact market is? 

Most people overstate what their market really is, so first clearly identify what your USP (Unique Sales Proposition) really is.  In other words what uniquely sets you apart from your competitors in the marketplace?  What are you known for in the marketplace?

What are your customer/clients biggest desire?

What does your prospective customer/client really want?  Please don’t overstate the obvious like:  We give great service.  Call your best customers and find out WHY they use your product or service and how they found you.

Why do they really want that?

Remember, it is not just what could happen, but what you could give them . . . more money, less stress and more freedom.  In my practice I have found that the typical business owner’s challenges fall into these buckets: Time, Team or Money.

What is their biggest problem or frustration?

What is their biggest frustration and obstacle that is really holding them and their business back?

How is that impacting them emotionally?

Get very specific emotions here, as well as the situation.

Imagine your Prospect . . .

Imagine your prospect as their mind is consumed with the desire to experience the ultimate outcome you listed.  Start by asking . . .  “If I could only just . . . .”

Your ideal customer/client . . .

Is your ideal customer/client a man or woman, or both?  What is their age?  What do they do for a living?  What do they look like?  Where do they live?  Where do they shop? Who does the shopping?  Is it location, price, or product/service?

AIDA . . .

Grab and keep people’s attention with a subject line and title, wrapped around their pain or the intended outcome (benefit).  In other words, create AIDA . . .

  • Attention/Attract

Use powerful words, or a picture that will catch the reader’s eye and make them stop and read what you have to say.

  • Interest

This is one of the most challenging stages: You’ve got the attention of your reader/viewer, but how can you engage with them so that they’ll want to spend their precious time understanding your message in more detail?

  • Desire

As you are building the reader’s interest, help them understand how your product or service can help them. One way of doing this is by appealing to their personal needs, wants, pain, desires or challenges.

  • Action

Be very clear about what action you want your readers to take; for example, “Visit http://www.mywebsite.com now for more information” rather than just leaving people to work out what to do for themselves.

What is YOUR Customer Experience?

Your business is humming along. Your employees are laboring away just to keep upwith the daily workflow. Your KPI’s, specifically your revenues and profits have been growing. Everything seems to be fine; but you have a bad feeling.

So, you spent the necessary money on Exact Method Marketing and finally your customers keep finding you and you keep them happy;  but what are you missing?

Do You Know What Your Customers Really Want?

My client, Fred, has a auto repair shop that repairs a variety of automobiles. One of the first questions I ever asked him was: “Do you know what your customers really want?”

“They want the automobiles properly fixed” Fred replied. ”And then he added. “Or they want to feel that they got the best possible service for their auto.”

“Okay,” I replied. “So how do you deliver the best possible service?”

We spent hours online researching the competition that our customers would go to for repairs.

“So what is your brand promise then?” I asked.

“Brand promise what’s that?” Fred said.

“Your brand promise is the way you satisfy and exceed your customers’ expectations.”

“So, how do you know that your customers want, need and desire with regards to repairing their automobile?” I asked.

They usually call and come into the shop; and they seem to come for an assortment of routine repairs and maintenance. Some come from some distance, most been with us for years. What else could they want or need? I give my customers what they desire, incredible service.”

“But how do you know with certainty what your customers really need and desire?” I asked.   “Why do they come into your shop, when they could go to the auto dealer for the same repairs?”

After further discussion, Fred created a brief on-line survey and emailed it to those customers for which he had email addresses– he realized that this point the number of customers in his database that he did not have complete contact information.

The Real Reason Someone Buys From You

As it turned out he was right, that reason his customers kept coming back was the relationship he had with the customers.  He found that his customers liked and trusted him that he would not over-charge for items and generally he got the auto back to the customer in the timeframe they expected.

Through one simple on-line survey, with some good questions, Fred came to appreciate that his customers’ expectations were being met and even exceed those with regards to his competitors.

Step One– Find out what your customers’ deepest critical needs are. A simple survey can get you what you need.

Step Two– Understand how you can better satisfy the customers expectations better than the competition, and in a way that is unique.  This starts the process of brand promise.

Step Three– Integrate the brand promise into the client experience.

The Brand Promise

The best example of a brand promise is The Ritz-Carlton . . . .

“At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.  By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company. The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.”

So, let me ask . . . 

How does your Commitment to Creating a Customer Experience compare to the Ritz-Carlton Gold Standard?  Maybe, yours might need some improvement.

Transformational Leadership

How did you spend summertime as a child? You probably have memories of vacationing with your family, playing baseball or softball, attending summer camps, or swimming at the pool or lake.

Eight-year old Khadim spends his days at a brick kiln, working to pay off a small debt inherited from his deceased parents. He is charged room and board in excess of his wages so that regardless of how hard he labors, the debt is sure to grow. From dawn until dusk, Khadim lugs around heavy clay bricks. First, he totes them out of the kiln so that they can bake in the hot sun, and he then carries them back into the kiln once they’ve dried. He tries to keep pace with his adult co-laborers, but he is only a boy and often falls behind, drawing angry shouts from his overseer.

By evening his tiny limbs ache, and he collapses into bed (a dirty, tattered floor mat) only to repeat the cycle the following day. This is his life. Khadim carries bricks—all day, every day. Summer does not alter his routine; it merely intensifies the miserable conditions of his slave labor.

Transformational Leaders

William Wilberforce, was troubled by the Khadim’s of his day, and therefore devoted his life to abolishing slavery in the British Empire. Through his efforts, the slave trade was outlawed and an estimated 800,000 slaves were set free. The question is: how did he do it?

1- Being Transformed

As a young Member of Parliament, Wilberforce was preoccupied with his political reputation, standard of living, and social status. However, during his time in office, he encountered stories about slavery that tugged at his heart. Rather than brushing aside the feelings, he resolved to take action in order to reform this culture.

2- Surround Yourself with a Common Purpose

Wilberforce linked up with like-minded Britons in combating slavery, and he and several other abolitionists moved together to Clapham Common, a neighborhood in southwest London. Given their close proximity, the group’s quest to end slavery was an constant topic of conversation. Being in the same area of town allowed the reformers to encourage one another in their efforts to raise public awareness.

3- Creativity to Persuade Others

At first, public opinion was decidedly against Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists. Several prominent public figures, such as Admiral Lord Nelson, spoke out in defense of the institution of slavery. To turn the tide of public sentiment, Wilberforce and his partners came up with a number of “launchers” or devices intended to spark conversation about the abolition of slavery. For instance, one of Wilberforce’s friends, Josiah Wedgewood, created a medallion depicting a kneeling, shackled male slave above the inscription: “Am I not a man and a brother?” The abolitionists then initiated an advocacy campaign, leveraging Wedgewood’s position in manufacturing to place the medallion on everything from bracelets to dinnerware to artwork.

The Price to Transform Culture

Beginning in 1787 Wilberforce started the political movement to end slavery in the British Empire. Twenty years later, he won a victory when Parliament voted to outlaw the slave trade. However, the Slave Trade Act of 1807 did not affect the condition of those already in slavery. Wilberforce would persist another 26 years in opposing slavery until finally, in 1833, Parliament voted to abolish slavery throughout the entirety of the United Kingdom. Three days later Wilberforce passed away.

Conclusion

In leadership the greatest gap exists between Being, Doing and Having. To understand this better, you cannot HAVE, unless you DO and that means BEING (a Transformational Leader).

Over the years, employees had all sorts of training but rarely implement many of these new notions. Only when you bridge that gap can productivity and people development really happen. Furthermore, in leadership the greatest challenge involves moving from just doing (the normal business activities) to changing (creating an new culture).

What aspects of your business culture would you like to see change? What small, initial steps could you take to make a transformative difference in the area of culture that you feel needs to be reformed? What do you think the rewards will be, when you are able to transform the business culture to a new mindset?