Most entrepreneurs understand the importance and value of obtaining introductions. However, many of them do not have a process or methodology that generates a consistent stream of quality prospects.
In client interactions, there are actually three conversations, or “sales”, that have to take place:
The first sale that occurs is to you. It is your belief in the value of what you do. High performing salespeople believe passionately in the value they or their organization are able to provide. It is important to consider the beliefs you may hold that detract you from obtaining introductions on a consistent basis and the beliefs that lead to consistently asking for introductions, recommendations, and referrals.
For some entrepreneurs, the inconsistency in obtaining introductions starts with the “Me-to-Me” conversation. They are not comfortable asking for referrals.
The second conversation is “Me-to-You”. This “sale” occurs with the prospect or client. For some salespeople, the problem is that they do not have a methodology or process for obtaining introductions, recommendations, or referrals on a consistent basis. High performing salespeople have a well thought out and disciplined approach to consistently ask for and receive introductions, recommendations, and referrals. Successful entrepreneurs redefine their business when they implement replicable processes. From an adult learning perspective, a process is a pattern or methodology that is repeatable, transferable, and distinguishable. This also involves a process for consistently obtaining introductions, recommendations, and referrals.
Most entrepreneurs focus on referrals, so why are we talking about introductions and recommendations? It is simple. Introductions are more effective than recommendations and recommendations are more impactful than referrals.
Whereas a referral is generally considered to be a name, address, telephone number and, perhaps, email address of someone your client knows; an introduction is a face-to-face meeting whereby your client invites a person they know who fits your ideal client profile.
With an introduction, your client or Center of Influence introduces you to your prospect in person. There is no better way to meet a prospective client. With an introduction, you are able to hitch hike on the credibility your client has with the prospect. If the prospect trusts and has confidence in your client, they are more likely to trust and have confidence in you. After the introduction, your prospect will feel as if they “know” you because they have met you in person. This is the major difference between an introduction and referral. A mere referral will not give a prospective client the same feeling of “knowing you”.
A recommendation is better than a referral in that the client or Center of Influence takes the time to connect and recommend you to prospects. However, it is not the same as a physical introduction where you and the prospect have an opportunity to get to know each other with the help of an existing client.
The difference between introductions, recommendations, and referrals is the confidence factor. An introduction allows you to instantly establish the confidence that you will need to nurture and sustain a prospective client throughout the buying cycle.
The third conversation is “You-to-You”. It is in the one that occurs in the mind of the “buyer”. They have to be convinced that the product or service that is being offered is of value to them and someone they know.
High performing salespeople understand that most people will refer if they feel the product or service is of value. For instance, a joint study by LIMRA and McKinsey found that 80% of policyholders stated that they would give referrals to their financial advisor, but only 11% were asked.
To consistently obtain introductions from people who fit your ideal client profile, the starting point is your belief in the value of what you do and your willingness to ask clients and Centers of Influence for help in meeting people who fit the profile. The second step is to prepare, practice, and perfect your “Me-to-You” conversation to ensure your comfort and confidence in asking for introductions. The final step is to understand the mind of the client. Most clients are willing to help. They will introduce, recommend, or refer you, if asked. It depends upon how engaged they are and the degree to which you have earned the right to be introduced to their network.