Many sales trainers will tell you that the key obtaining more referrals is asking for the business. This concept is absolutely false. If it were true, why have trainers been beating this into our heads for years and most of us still are not comfortable asking? The key to getting more referrals is putting ourselves in the position to ask. When we place ourselves in the right position, the business transaction will take place naturally. If it feels uncomfortable or is forced -- it is not right.
How to Generate Agent Referrals
Put yourself in the right position before asking for business
June 28, 2004
By DAVE HERSHMAN
Of course, an important question follows: How do you put yourself in a position to ask? This is a fairly complex issue and involves everything from market positioning to the delivery of great customer service. In this article we will address only one positioning technique. This technique involves the delivery of value to a business-to-business partner, specifically a real estate agent. Why do we start with this particular activity? Because there is no one area that demonstrates so effectively that asking is a finely tuned skill and not merely walking around and pleading.
The activity we are referring to here is delivering a lead to someone who can deliver many leads to us. The law of reciprocity dictates that we deliver value to those who are delivering value to us. Within the real estate industry -- it would not be unusual for real estate agents, loan officers, settlement companies, insurance agents, financial planners and even CPAs to "trade" prospects. The question is -- how do you do such to achieve the most value in return? Have you ever delivered a lead to a real estate agent (a potential "partner") and never received anything in return? Here are some very important considerations.
First, make sure that this lead is not a one-shot deal. You must make lead generation an overall part of your business plan. Otherwise, the agent will not see you as a long-term valuable resource. They are more likely to see the gesture as a one-time windfall and look elsewhere for long-term value. Obviously, you want to be in that position. Another example of why the key to "asking" is positioning.
Secondly, target the right real estate agents. While it is always right to reward a present partner who delivers value to you on a regular basis, you must recognize that your business plan will sometimes require that you use your resources to develop or solidify new business relationships. Unfortunately, we usually select those WE want to service. The sales process should not be about our needs; it should be about the needs of whom we are serving. We must select based upon:
- Lack of relationship interference. If they cannot use us in the long-run because of their established relationships -- they are not the best recipient of our value.
- Loyalty. How loyal are they to their partners and/or vendors? If they are not loyal to their present partners, what makes you think they will be loyal to you? In some respects this aspect is a tough balancing act with the first point because those who are loyal are more likely to have relationship interference.
- How are they going to treat your customer? Can they deliver great service? Your name is going to be on the line here (and hopefully again and again). Do not leave the results to chance.
- Are they ethical? This aspect covers everything from them doing what they say they will do (are they reliable) to keeping on the right side of the law. You want someone who will be honest to you, themselves and the customers. Many who have promised you business in the past were really dishonest with themselves because they intended to follow through. But they were ignoring the real reasons that prevented them from following through.
Next, you must make sure you deliver the prospect in the right way. What we are talking about here is a business deal. Asking for the business is more than a question. It is a business negotiation. Make sure they know exactly what is expected and when. They must be in total agreement as to what they are to deliver.
Finally, you must follow-up with a vengeance. A key to success in sales is diligent follow-up and there is no area within sales in which this adage will prove to be more true than in this situation. If you do not follow-up appropriately, you are opening the door to such statements as "I haven't had anyone to send." If they did not have the business to allocate, why would you have selected them to utilize one of your most precious resources? You must show them that you are serious with regard to making sure they hold up their end of the business proposition. The longer you go without follow-up the less chance you have of collecting your reward.
You should have heard this before -- success is not an accident. There is no example of planning for success that is better typified than this situation. Your precious resources could lead to very valuable relationships that will help you succeed forever. Or you could wind up wasting the chance. Which will it be???