Simon’s background and cultural experience gave him a great advantage in his chosen career. Unfortunately, he was not aware of it. When we first started working together, it was clear that one of Simon’s strengths was his network.
Born and raised in Lebanon, he spoke English, French and Arabic. His clientele consisted primarily of people from his native country. Unfortunately, it was a small community that he had virtually tapped out. He did not realize that the characteristics of the people in his natural market created the greatest opportunity to grow his business.
We teach our clients that the first step in marketing and building their brand is to define your ideal client profile. Your ideal client profile consists of demographic and psychographic characteristics.
Demographics involve the statistical analysis of a population e.g. age, income, net worth, type of employment, marital status, etc. Psychographics are comprised of the attitudes, attributes and values of the group e.g. solution seekers, value relationships, strong family values, opinion leaders, givers etc.
The key to Simon’s success in growing his business was to leverage the psychographic characteristics of the people in his natural market. The people of Lebanon and the Middle East in general, place a high value on relationships and trust. In building his business, Simon spent countless hours drinking coffee with prospects and clients. Coffee is a staple of relationship building in the Middle East. Before the people in his community would buy from him, he earned their trust over coffee, games of backgammon and chess. His investment in building relationships and establishing credibility paid off in spades. A significant number of friends and relatives became clients. His large network of friends and family enabled him to increase his revenue to $250,000 in his fourth year of business. Then, his income stopped growing.
The most important measure of the degree of trust or credibility in a relationship is the extent to which people willingly introduce, recommend or refer you to the people that are most important to them.
There is an art and a science to obtaining introductions, recommendations and referrals. Introductions are far more effective than referrals. With an introduction, your client or centre of influence provides the leverage. They are the ones who arrange the meeting with the prospect. In the case of a referral, you have to employ the leverage. The art of obtaining introductions is quite simple. We teach a five step process.
The first step is to confirm your relationship with the nominator. It goes something like this: “Sam, now that you have had a chance to see the type of work we do, how do you feel about it?” When the client responds positively, you affirm their confidence in you by feeding back what you have heard and encouraging them to expand upon how you have made a difference in their lives. This conversation can take place while conducting a periodic review.
The second step is to describe your ideal client. You might say the following: “That is good to hear, because you are the type of client that I want to work with. Let me be more specific…” Then, you summarize the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your ideal client.
The third step is to ask your client: “Who do you know who fits these characteristics? If they have difficulty coming up with a number of names, you can feed categories such as, “Who is the most successful person you know?” “Which of your colleagues fit the client profile I just described?”
Once you have been given a number of names, the next step is to qualify the prospects and enlist the nominator’s help in meeting them. It is important to get six to ten names from your client or center of influence before you ask questions about each person in order to determine whom you will pursue. The key is to identify the people who most closely approximate your ideal client profile and then determine with your client the best way to obtain an introduction. Ideally, your client will arrange an introduction to two or three of the best prospects and provide recommendations and referrals to the rest.
The fifth step is to keep your client informed with regard to your experience in following up with these people. Keep in mind that you always respect the confidential nature of each relationship. However, your client will want to know about people whom they introduce, recommend and refer who become clients. Your success with their network expands the equity in the relationship for them and for you. When Simon learned to ask his clients and centres of influence for introductions, recommendations and referrals, his revenue doubled in the next year.