How to Gain More Sales Through Referrals

I’ve been coaching a lot of financial advisors lately on building their book of business by leveraging the power of referrals.  Referred prospects make faster decisions and do more business than prospects through any other marketing strategy.

I LOVE referrals…and I get a lot of them.

The problem for most business owners is that they’re afraid to ask for fear of seeming pushy or needy.  Colleagues are afraid to provide them because they don’t trust you enough to not jeopardize their relationships in their network.

So what’s a business owner to do?

When we’re in a slow economy, people are naturally hesitant and leery of making major investments.  If you’ve found yourself making lots of offers but getting few of them accepted, you’re not alone. The problem may not be that what you have to offer isn’t valuable.

It may be that your approach is off.

Referrals could be the key to your recovery.  Referred sales take less work. They close faster. They bring in more money.  And if you know the secret to leveraging them, they can pull you right out of this financial doldrum most of the world is trapped in.

Here are the 5 steps, R.E.F.E.R. to getting all the referrals you can muster.

1. Recruit
It’s important to identify the right referral partners.  These might be good clients or colleagues who sell non-competing products or services to your target market.

2. Educate
In order to alleviate that “I’m-not-sure-I-want-to-endorse-you” hesitation, you have to properly orient your referral partners.  They need to know not only what products and services you offer but how you’re going to treat their colleagues when you meet them. They have to feel confident that you’re not going to embarrass them or irritate the person they’re connecting you with.

3. Facilitate
Many people believe that giving you the name, phone number and email of a prospect is all that it takes.  In fact, that’s the weakest kind of referral you can ever get.  It’s better than a cold call for sure, but not strong enough to oversome the reluctance people have to meeting unknown sales people.

You want your colleague to talk to the prospect on your behalf and ‘grease the  slide’ for you before  you ever contact them.

4. Engage
Meeting your new prospect for the first time is a sensitive and delicate ocassion.  If you blow it, the relationship could be over for good. And you could be jeopardizing your relationship with the person you already know. You have to make sure your new prospect is comfortable meeting with you and minimize their discomfort and fear that you’re going to take advantage of them.

5. Reward
Once you’ve met with the prospect, whether or not they buy from you, it’s important to properly thank the person who made the introduction. Thanking them can take many forms.  The choice of how you show your appreciation should be commensurate with the business opportunity you had.  It should also be personal enough that your friend or colleague knows that you gave this gratitude process some thought and didn’t just send them the exact same thing you’d give to everyone.

Sure, you can have a canned referral program but unless your standard gifts are whopper, super-duper items, they won’t have long lasting motivational impact.  Gifts don’t have to be expensive, just tailored and thoughtful.

Follow this 5-part system consistently and you’re pipeline will be packed with prospects clamoring to do business with you.

5 Things Every Team Needs to Win and Flourish

Most work in companies gets done through interaction between people.  Some managers mistakenly think they can just hire people, give them a job or task to do and then expect that they’ll ‘make it happen’.

Recently, I’ve heard leaders say “Do your job!” like that person could just wave a magic wand and have everything turn out ‘peachy keen’.

In reality, most tasks require planning and collaboration and a whole lot more in order for them to be completed successfully. It’s the bosses job to facilitate activities, not just dictate them.

I’ve identified 5 things teams need to have in order for them to be successful and productive.

  1. Goals
  2. Roles
  3. Rules
  4. Styles
  5. Scores

1. Goals
Each person needs goals, but the team itself needs goals as well.  Without knowing there they’re headed as a group, teams will flounder.  Individual self-interests will prevail and competition will ensue.

  • Where are we going?
  • Why is that important?
  • Who are we serving and why?

2. Roles
Team members need to be clear about their individual roles and how they are contributing to the accomplishment of the goals.

  • What does everyone on the team do?
  • How do ‘hand-offs’ occur?
  • How does my work impact them?

3. Rules
Rules provide structure, systems and processes that make teams more effective.

  • How do we communicate with each other? How rapidly can we expect a response?
  • What processes do we follow?
  • How do we make decisions around here?
  • What happens when things go awry?
  • How do we share in the wins?

4. Styles
It’s critical to understand the human side of each team member.  People are more than just cogs in a wheel.  When team members take time to know each other beyond their roles on the team, getting the work done will take much less effort.

If I communicate with you on your terms, appealing to your thought process and priorities, fewer ‘breakdowns in communication’ will happen.  Expectations will be more explicit, not implied.  Implications lead to assumptions and  assumptions create mistakes and unfulfilled expectations and opportunities.

5. Scores
Scores are often measures of the goals that have been set.  They allow a team to track their progress and ultimately, their success.  Scores also allow analysis of what could be improved.

How does your team stack up?  If you are the leader, how well are you facilitating the creation and management of these 5 critical items? What improvements can be made?

When you attend to the people side of your business, your business can deliver on the profit side.

How to Position Yourself for the Economic Recovery in 3 Simple Steps

The economy is showing signs of recovering.  It may be a slow rebound but there are things you MUST be doing now to make sure you participate in the recovery when it comes.

I talk to many business owners who are either hunkered down themselves waiting for the economic ‘storm’ to blow over or they’re trying to sell their products or services to those who are hunkered down.  Either way, not much is happening in the small business world.  Even the executives I speak to in corporations are still being a bit cautious about the investments they’re making in people, products and services.

1. Improve systems

Now is the time to make sure your internal engine is running properly.  Evaluate your sales, production, service delivery and administrative processes.  Determine how well they are functioning.  Do this even if you are the only person in your ‘company’. Ask yourself and your team if you have one where breakdowns happen. Who’s not getting the info they need?  What’s taking too long to happen?  What can be automated or streamlined? What needs to be documented so others can carry out the task when a transition occurs?

I helped one of my clients and his team eliminate the breakdowns between the office and field functions.  Right after that, his business exploded.  While we didn’t work directly on sales, he confided to me that if we hadn’t fixed his process breakdowns, they would have not been able to handle the onslaught of work and would have looked like “complete idiots”.  Save yourself from that potential business-killing embarrassment.

Improving systems improves your profitability.

2. Improve you

When you’re trimming expenses, it’s tempting to cut training.  Large and small companies often make the mistake of eliminating training when budgets are tight because the ROI on training seems slower and in some cases, hard to measure.  Yet, It’s during times of trouble that you MUST make sure everyone is functioning at their optimal level…including you!

You and your staff are your company’s most valuable possession. You might have some trademarked or patented processes. But even still, you and your people are carrying them out. No people or ineffective people, no profits.

Times are changing.  Even when the economy recovers, nothing will be quite the same again.  Make sure you and your team are mentally ready with the skills and attitudes that will carry you through the next iteration of the global economy. Invest now and position yourself to trounce the competition.

3. Improve sales

When you do the first two things, it’s likely that your sales will increase on their own.  However, here are a few tips for increasing sales even more.  Get feedback from clients about what you’re offering them and they need now.  Make sure you’ve adjusted to the current environment.  Consider flexible payment terms.  Cater to a different (hungrier or higher-income) crowd. Offer new products, programs and services. Talk to more people.  If you’re not having a number of sales conversations every day, you’re leaving money on the table.

Focusing on these three simple steps will help position you well for the recovery. Don’t sit around moping.  I’m sure you heard the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” when you were growing up.  Implementing these steps is one way you can help yourself. Get to work!

Need More Time? 5 Top Tips on How to Get More Done

roadrunnerrunningsmallerIf you’re like most of my coaching clients, you probably feel like you’re scampering around like a roadrunner – with too much to do in the time you have to get it done.

If that’s the case, read on, this article is all about improving your productivity and getting more meaningful work accomplished with the time you have.

The key is to focus more, concentrate your efforts and leverage your most productive skills.

Here are my top 5 tips for getting more done in a day.

1.  Prioritize
Before you leave at night, do two things: 1) straighten your desk up and 2)make a list of your most important items to accomplish the following day.

When you get in in the morning, start working on the list. Don’t open your email!  Work on the top two things on your most important list for at least an hour, if not two.

If people drop by during those first two hours, unless it’s an emergency (or your boss), ask if you can get back to them later in the day.

2. Get stingy with your time
Strive to reduce the number of meetings you need to sit in on.  See if you can send a delegate or submit a report in advance. For any meeting you conduct, make sure there is an agenda with outcomes of the discussion for each item on the agenda.

3. Be the boss of your email
Open your email two, maybe three times during the day and answer all of the emails during those times.  Then close your email program so you’re not distracted by the ‘you’ve-got-mail’ signal.

4. Systematize
Create/document systems and processes for your staff so they don’t have to bother you so much during the day. Make a list of the most common questions/issues and document your responses.  Cover them in staff meetings regularly.

5. Delegate/Outsource
Identify those things you do that someone else could do (even if you could do them better).  Document the process you use to complete those tasks.

Figure out who around you would be the best person to take the task on.  Meet with the person and explain what you want them to take over and how it will benefit them (and you) to start doing the task(s).

Ask what questions or concerns they have about taking on the task then address the questions/concerns. (Do this for the concerns you have about giving them the task as well.)

Invest some time in training the other person to take them over for you. Meet with him/her periodically to make sure things are going the way you want.

Implement these tips and get more done. Value your time.  It’s a scarce commodity.  Value your gifts and skills. They are treasures as well.  They should be invested in high-return activities.  When you value your time and abilities more, you’ll create more value in your life, business or career.