“Where do you get your new business?” is a question we’re asked a lot, especially since we teach business-to-business consultative selling skills and sales process development.  People expect us to have a good answer, and we do-“referrals.”

Unfortunately, those same people usually aren’t satisfied with that answer alone. More often they’re surprised or even disappointed. They expect our answer to perhaps the biggest question in business development to be “different” from what they already know or have at least heard. (We’re talking business-to-business here, including professional services firms.)

Much more satisfying is our answer to the essential follow-up question: “How do you get referrals?” or, more specifically, “How do you get people to refer your business to others?”

In fact, we’ve been asked that question so often in our nearly 25 years in business that we created a short, but potent, training course called “Referrals: The Workshop.” It’s a single half-day session for a customized process that salespeople and other business developers can use to get referrals in your markets. It consists of information, insight, and, yes, inspiration based on a process that applies the principles and techniques of consultative selling to referrals and networking. Sales reps and other business developers gain confidence because they have a straightforward way of starting and guiding conversations in a variety of situations, including formal or informal networking events and even social situations.

But let’s get a couple of things straight. First, you’re already doing the absolute best job you can to provide your products or services. Performance has to be a given. Second, know that marketing and sales promotion activities, including support materials and messaging, are also key. Those efforts often put you in front of the people who become referral sources, including the right prospects whether they become customers or not. Finally, we’ve found that enterprises dependent only on referrals or without a disciplined way to get referrals struggle with growth. Almost every business entity needs new customers or clients to grow.

In addition, a productive, repeatable referral process for your business can’t be learned by reading a column or, truth be told, even a book. But you can learn our process in a hands-on, interactive workshop. An understanding of why the process works underpins how to implement it through practical tools and techniques, language, role plays, and materials, including a 40-page workbook, that reinforce and extend the process after the session is over. Plus, we naturally want participants to succeed, not only because that’s why they’re there, but also because our reputation is on the line. So, for 30 days after the workshop ends, participants can call us with questions, concerns, ideas, or comments about the course’s content and how to use it in their day-to-day business development.

What do you need to know about getting strong, productive referrals consistently and over time?

First, you need to be “out there” at networking events, talking to prospects and customers, and making yourself visible in other ways. Second, you have to do it with purpose: You need to know what to do. Too many business developers, especially those for whom bringing in business is secondary to their main job, see trying to get referrals (and networking and prospecting, for that matter) as a black hole that only consumes time, energy, and money but doesn’t give anything back in return. That’s why it’s surprising to us that most companies invest little or nothing in what will get the best return on those investments-training in skills and methodology to increase the number and quality of referrals.

Professional sales reps and other business developers (attorneys, for example) are extremely curious, and they ask a lot of questions. For example:

  • How do you get referrals?
  • Do you have to be active, or do they just come in?
  • Why is it that just a few of our colleagues bring in the most business?
  • Do you need to ask for referrals? That seems out of line to me.
  • If so, who, when, and how should you ask?
  • What, exactly, should you say?
  • Do you need to give referrals to get referrals?
  • Are some referral sources better than others? How do you know?
  • What is “relationship building” and how do you do it?

Our half-day workshop answers these questions and more. Participants have found the principles, strategy, and tactics we teach helpful in highly practical ways. For example, they’re more comfortable and enthusiastic at networking or business meetings in which potential referral sources are participating. They tell us it’s in large part because they now understand how to look for business in different environments and to use our process to get the ball rolling and keep it rolling. They don’t feel “salesy,” intrusive, or uncomfortably aggressive.

Yes, there’s a lot to think about. But if you’re wondering why getting referrals seems more difficult than it should be, or growth is a real challenge even with superior products and services, give us a call. We’ll spend time with you to learn more about your specific issues and explain who we are and how our half-day “Referrals: The Workshop” can help.

Get grounded now for implementing a referrals process tailored to your company or firm that will help build business in the new year. Just contact us at 847-446-0008, Ext. 1, or pkrone@productivestrategies.com.

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