If you’ve been following my work for a while, you know that I view the word “referrals” as a “for internal use only” word. When talking with your clients, prospects, and centers of influence, I suggest you favor using the word “introductions.”
Why? Because that’s what we need these days. I think the days of walking away with names and phone numbers are pretty much over. People are much harder to reach than ever before. Therefore, we need our referral source to pave the way for us in some manner.
Safe & Effective
When the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) evaluates a new drug for approval in the marketplace, the criteria it uses is this: Is the drug safe and effective? When turning your referrals into introductions, I think this is a great expression to use with the person giving you the referrals. By safe, of course, I mean comfortable for both the referral source and the prospect. Giving you referrals/introductions feel safe to your clients or they won’t do it.
“George, I appreciate your willingness to introduce me to a couple of your colleagues at work. Let’s spend a minute to craft an introduction that feels safe and comfortable to you, as well as proves effective.”
“George, I suspect your friends would prefer to hear from you, before they hear from me – to know why you think they should take my call. Let’s come up with an introduction that is both safe and effective.” (You can substitute the word “comfortable” for “safe” if you wish.)
When your referral source takes a hand in crafting the introduction, four things happen:
- They become more invested in the success of the introduction.
- They gain the necessary confidence to make the introduction and not wimp out.
- The introduction sticks – doesn’t fall through the cracks.
- The new prospect is waiting to hear from you and, therefore, is more likely to return your call or email.
5 Guidelines for Creating Safe and Effective Introductions
- In person introductions are almost always the best – especially when dealing with higher-level prospects. Take your referral source and the prospect to lunch or dinner for a social introduction. Don’t talk business unless they bring it up. Use this as an opportunity to build genuine trust and rapport before asking for a business meeting. You can ask for the business meeting as you are concluding your meal or you can wait until the next day to start the business conversation. Of course, if the prospect asks you business related questions, you should answer as best you can – without going into too much detail. As you know, the answer to some questions will depend on having much more context with your client – their goal, fears, dreams, family structure, etc.
- As mentioned earlier, make the introduction a collaborative process. During this discussion, a great thing to say is, “George, what do you think you need to say to your sister Sandy to get her to take my call (or read and respond to my email?” Also ask, “How do you think Sandy will respond to this introduction?” This is a very important question to ask. This is where you insure you’re getting a solid introduction and it gives the referral source more confidence to actually make that introduction.
- Ask this incredibly helpful question,“What’s going on in her life that’s important to her right now?” Since money intersects all aspects of our life, whatever is going on in her life that’s important to her might just be your approach to her. You need a compelling approach for her to agree to meet with you. Without a compelling reason why that prospect should meet with you, then you run the risk of the prospect putting you off – sometimes for good.
- Always agree on a time frame for the introduction.If you can help it, never create an introduction with an open timeframe. “When do you think you’ll have a chance to send that email to Sandy – so I can be on the lookout for it and follow through in a timely manner?” Now you have a verbal agreement from your referral source. While this doesn’t guarantee they will make the introduction, it sure increases the odds.
- Keep the introductions from falling through the cracks. Once a time frame has been agreed upon – and day or so before your client mentions you to his sister, send him an email saying something like, “George, thank you for seeing if I might be a great resource for your sister Sandy. I’ll call you Monday as we agreed.” They the referral source has a reminder in the form of a thank you. Very effective at keeping the process alive.
Will some of these introductions still fall through the cracks? Of course. But they may not be lost forever. If you are staying in touch with your clients on a regular basis, you can always revive the referral at a later date. Sometimes a good fallback position is to have your client bring this prospect to one of your client appreciation or educational events.
Whenever you ask for referrals, always be thinking “Safe and Effective Introductions.”