Guest post by Rob Brown
Marketing coach tip: Let's talk about referrals. You do all this networking to either win direct business or cultivate relationships that will lead you to direct business. This second strategy is referrals.
The problem is that few people can tell you what a referral is.
Getting terms mixed up can make you sound a bit confusing when you ask for help. What you think is a referral might be a lead to someone else. You can see how it will help to get people on the same page. Would it help you to get a definitive answer on this?
Knowing exactly what a referral is should be the logical starting point in any guide on winning more referral business. Otherwise you ask 20 different people what a referral is and get 25 different answers!
See, many people mix up words like referrals, introductions, recommendations and leads. Then they wonder why the whole process is so confusing and why their customers and contacts struggle to pass them the business they want in the way they want it. So let's define some terms:
A LEAD. A lead is a contact that may come from any number of sources. This contact is generally not expecting your call. For example, if someone gave you a list of people who bank with a rival and are in your target range, you might consider that a lot of good referrals. Unfortunately, because the prospects are not expecting a call from you, it'sbasically not much better than a cold-call.
A RECOMMENDATION. A recommendation is something different. It's an endorsement to action. It makes you want to do something. It is similar to a referral, and makes a fine substitution. But all it does is tell you to call someone, go see that movie, eat at that restaurant. It is similar to a lead in that the person you approach still may not be expecting your call. A recommendation comes in the form of wise advice. The tone is ‘if you were me, you'd do this.' They have your interests at heart. Take action and you'll get good things!
A REFERRAL. A referral is a little more. It has more engagement and attachment from those involved parties. A referral is the opportunity to do business with someone in the market to buy your product or service who's been told about you by a mutual friend or associate.
"A referral is not a guaranteed sale. It is an opportunity for somebody to present their business where that presentation will be looked forward to with anticipation."
-- Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI
With a referral, you hope that when you contact them, they already know who you are and what you do. It is stronger than just a lead because the prospect has talked to your referral source and is generally expecting your call. Hence, they are referred.
AN INTRODUCTION. An introduction is simply the bringing together of interested parties. It's what you should do with a lead or referral. You've probably introduced people on email, by phone and of course, in person. When you bring people together, you become the social glue that oils the wheels of commerce. You are the catalyst that makes things happen. You are the conduit and the hub through which social capital travels.
When I talk about referrals , I'm expecting that you involve your referral sources as much as you can to bring about those introductions. When you do that, you're more likely to convert your referrals and keep everyone happy! A word of caution. Unless your network of customers and contacts are familiar with the word ‘referrals' and know exactly what it means and how it works, then we suggest you make ‘referrals' an internal word. Here is a great quote from Bill Cates, one of the top referral gurus in the USA.
'When we ask for referrals, what we really want is an introduction - a connecting to the new prospect. An introduction implies recommendation, but goes a step further and creates a connection. Someone can recommend us to someone, but not connect us to them. Likewise, someone can introduce us, but not recommend us. Which would you rather have? I'll take the introduction any day of the week. Ultimately, you should use the word that works best for you and flows most naturally for you. This way, you'll engage in the process more regularly.'
To recap... a lead is cold, a recommendation warmer, an introduction warmer still, and a referral the package of all three. So your mission is to generate a whole lot more of them for your business!
Rob Brown is the UK's leading authority on how to perform better and win more business through networking and referrals.