What Really Triggers a Referral?

What Really Triggers a Referral?

By John Jantsch

referral conversationReferrals most naturally happen when two people are talking and one of the parties expresses a pain in the neck. If the other party just had her pain in the neck fixed, she may very well say something like, “ooh, you just gotta call Bob, he’s the best pain in the neck fixer on the planet.“

Right? We’ve all done some variation of that exchange in making or receiving a referral.

Problem is, we don’t spend enough time teaching our customers and referral sources the types of complaints, frustrations, challenges, and situations our customers generally espouse when they are actually in the act of qualifying themselves as a great referral.

Here’s what I mean. We ask our customers and referral sources if they know anyone who needs a fully optimized, solutions driven lawn manicure specialist, when we should probably be asking them if they know anyone whose dog keeps getting loose because their lawn service always leaves the gate open.

I believe any salesperson worth their salt has developed a list of phrases, situations, and verbal clues that, if heard during a sales presentation, signal it’s time to take the order.

The same idea is true of a qualified referral.

My belief is that the best way to make it easy for people to refer business your way is to develop a list of “trigger” phrases that experience tells you are the exact words your prospects utter when then need what you’ve got.

For example, if you sell accounting software, it’s rare that a prospect might walk up to a golf buddy and say, I sure wish I had some better accounting software.

But, he might says – “I have no idea how healthy my business is because we never have timely data”, or,”I feel like I’m being help hostage by my accounting firm,” or “we keep everything on spreadsheets and it’s a real hassle to update.”

In many cases these folks don’t have any idea that your accounting software is the answer, but you do, so these utterances are your invitation to save the day.

Spend a couple hours brainstorming with anyone in your organization that has customer contact of any kind or call up a dozen customers and ask them to identify the true value your firm brings them with the goal of creating a top ten list of trigger phrases that everyone in your organization and anyone wishing to refer business could use as the perfect way to spot your ideal customer.

Then, clean this list up and create a document you can use in your marketing education processes. (This might end up being the best internal sales training tool you’ve created to date.)

You can even take it a step farther and publicize this content in some manner in your marketing materials because it’s likely that a prospect might be saying these exact things to themselves as well.

Close the loop on this process by also creating some tools, like gift certificates, special referral offers, or coupons, that your referral sources can use any time they hear a trigger phrase.

Prospect: “I’ve been waiting over a week for my lawyer to call me back.” – Referral Source: “Really, my attorney calls me back within 24 hours guaranteed – here’s her card, because I recommended you she’ll review your first contract for free.”

Image credit: dearbarbie


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