23/06/2015 - 13:19

Earning your ‘risk-free’ status

23/06/2015 - 13:19


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Becoming referable is a matter of earning, not asking.

RISK FREE: Your customers must have confidence in your ability to succeed. Photo: iStockphoto

Becoming referable is a matter of earning, not asking.

A good friend gave me a book about building your business through referrals. The author believes that the best marketing strategy is to be referable. He is correct. He writes: “Referability means that your very best clients and customers are continually cloning themselves – continually introducing you to those like themselves or better than themselves.”

Well, kind of – but not really clear.

According to the author, your referability depends upon four habits.

1. Show up on time.

2. Do what you say.

3. Finish what you start.

4. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank’ you.

Really? Could being referable be that simple? The author asserts that these four habits convey respect and appreciation toward the customer. He says if you’re arrogant or erratic, you won’t be referred, no matter how talented or charming you are. He says if you’re not getting enough referrals, you need to cultivate the four habits. He is partially right. Very partially.

I say his four elements don’t create referability; his four elements are a given in any business relationship. To be referable, you have to go way beyond showing up on time and delivering what you promise.

Those habits may have worked in 1955, but becoming referable and earning referrals in today’s times is a far more complex exercise.

I have found that a referral is earned, not asked for. When you ask for one, you immediately put your relationship in an awkward position, especially if the customer is reluctant to give you one, and you keep pestering him or her.

Here’s why: The one-word definition of referral is ‘risk’.

When someone gives you a referral, it means they are willing to risk their relationship with the referred person or company. They have enough trust and faith in you to perform in an exemplary manner, and not jeopardise their existing friendship or business relationship.

Once you understand the definition of a referral, and realise how delicate, yet powerful, it is, you at once realise why you get them (or not); and that you must become risk free in order to earn them.

Referrals are awkward to ask for, and often create discomfort on the part of the customer.

Here are the elements that breed proactive referrals.

1. Be likeable

This is the first prerequisite. Without a friendly relationship, there is no need to go further.

2. Be reliable

The company, the product, the service, and you, must be best, and there when needed.

3. The customer considers you an expert in your field

To be referable, you must have an expertise that breeds customer confidence.

4. They trust you

The customer is certain that you will do everything in the referred party’s best interest, like you have with theirs.

5. You have a track record of performance

You have already done the same thing with the customer and they’re comfortable that you can repeat the performance.

5.5 They consider you valuable – a resource, not a salesman

Not just, ‘do what you say’ … there’s no real value there. I mean, provide value to the customer beyond your product and service – value beyond the sale. Helping the customer to profit more, produce more, or some other form of value, either attached to your product or not. Not value in terms of you, value in terms of the customer. Referable value.

Here are some telltale signs that you ‘qualify’ for a referral

• Your phone calls are returned. This means there was a purpose, a value, or a friendship reason. Returned calls connote respect for who you are.

• You get reorders. This means they want to do business with you, and they like to do business with you.

• There are no problems with service issues. Your interactions are smooth and your execution is flawless.

• They accept your lunch invitation. And the conversation is more personal than business.

Here’s the secret: If the one word definition or referral is ‘risk’, then you must be risk free – or at least risk tolerable.

Here’s the strategy that will work 100 per cent of the time: Give your customer a referral first. It will not only blow them away, they will become an advocate on your referral team.

Report card: The referral you got turned into a sale.




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