Selling Skills Feed

How to Handle Customers Who are "Considering Other Options"

In case you missed it, here's a video interview I recorded with the great Jeffrey Gitomer. Watch above to see his best tips about how to handle a customer who says he or she is still considering other options.

What do you think of the tips in this video? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 


Crowdsourcing Lead Generation: 5 Critical Steps

Richard BeedonToday's guest post is by Dick Beedon, founder and CEO of Amplifinity.

 

 

 


There is a new strategy in the field of lead generation. The concept is simple and compelling, and it works. The idea: leverage people (customers, employees, and influencers) and/or companies who can influence your prospects’ buying decisions into a channel or community that drives leads on your behalf. You can call it crowdsourcing lead generation. You can call it a form of social selling. You can call it advocacy marketing – but the goal is the same: to build long-term lead generation channels that consistently drive leads on behalf of your brand.

Think of it as a new paradigm. Today, brands typically think of sales channels (inside sales, direct sales, third party) as channels that actually close business. This new channel sits somewhere between the current models, as it does not actually close business. It drives leads. I call it crowdsourcing lead generation.  

Customers, employees, and influencers are the fastest growing lead generation channel today. Smart brands are starting to ask these constituencies to become part of a channel/community that drives leads on behalf of the brand. By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize this community by creating and leveraging their social relationships to generate the highest quality leads and drive new business. In fact, so many brands are doing it now that there is a critical set of proven best practices:  

1.  Determine who influences your prospects’ buying decisions.  

Always look to your customers first. They are great sources of leads, and you have good access to them. Real estate agents can be a good channel for banks, security companies, etc., because they have some influence with new people or families who move into market. If you are selling payroll services, CPAs might be a high-producing channel because they have influence over small businesses, and it is the same with banks. Organizations such as chambers of commerce have influence over a large number of small businesses and can be a great channel.     

2.  Promote, engage, and recruit these advocates into a community/program/channel by motivating and nurturing them.  

Any place you “touch” them is also an optimal opportunity to recruit them, whether it is through an online banner ad after an e-commerce transaction, a sales rep in the field, or an email – but it is important to recruit them into the channel. Think of this as a professional channel/relationship. Ask them to read the overview of your program, sign the terms and conditions, and register to become a part of your team.  

It is very important that you motivate your new advocates by sending regular communications reminding them of the opportunities and encouraging further engagement. Nurturing is a key factor in creating long-term relationships with your advocates and growing the program. Make sure the software you choose to run your advocacy programs can be configured to send nurturing communications, thanking your advocates for their leads and encouraging future participation.

3.  Ask your advocates to give you leads.  

This is a professional sales and marketing channel and deserves to be treated as such. You can drive advocates to the program, but you must ask them to provide leads for your brand, and there are many subtle and unobtrusive ways to do it. Once advocates begin adding value to your business, reward them with cash, points, donations to a charity, special offers, or other forms of recognition deemed most effective.

Don’t forget to continue asking for their help. There is an effective cadence of reminders and communications that have been proven most effective at generating the highest levels of engagement and the greatest numbers of leads. Have a strategy based on proven best practices.

4.  Empower them with multiple sharing tools to make their job easy and convenient.

There’s nothing worse than watching a brand launch an advocacy marketing program designed to crowdsource leads and then realizing it has significantly limited the performance of that program by offering a limited choice of sharing tools. Make mobile, social, digital, and offline sharing available. These tools are vital to your program, and they are also key to tracking and managing your growth.

5.  Track and manage the leads and channel.  

Your advocacy marketing software must be capable of seamlessly dropping the leads into the buy flow and lead flow. In a B2B environment, this feature is a highly effective tool for sales teams. They are traditionally effective at knowing who could influence prospects and drive high-quality leads.  

The major benefit is simple and powerful: you extend your sales team with additional overhead. This team knows when friends are in the market. Another benefit: sales-management teams can measure their progress and motivate their sales teams to both acquire members into the channel and determine how to motivate the channel to drive more leads.

Crowdsourcing lead generation is an important part of growing a big brand today, and once a system is in place to automate the process, it couldn’t be much easier. If you’ve got a product worth referring and customer service worth talking about, then it’s probably time to maximize those assets using your customers, employees, and third-party influencers as a sales and marketing channel.

Every brand has customers, employees, and other influencers who are willing and able to refer leads. Ask them for those leads – they will share them.


Top 10 Steps Salespeople Can Take to Improve

DaveKurlanToday's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.





Baseball players can have some really incredible games, yet there are other days when things just don’t go nearly as well. The players’ timing could be off, their swing can get too long, they may not see the ball clearly, they may move too much, they could drop the back shoulder, they could pull their head off the ball and open their hips or shoulders too quickly, or they could swing too hard. Any one of these things can cause them to hit a weak grounder or pop-up, miss entirely, or just suck – and that’s just the hitting part.

Salespeople can have the same kinds of days.

  • They can sound too tense, serious, or professional.

  • Their timing could be off.

  • They could try too hard.

  • They might be too easily put off.

  • They could be too aggressive.

  • They might ask the wrong question.

  • They might not listen well.

  • They could miss the big opening.

  • They could offend someone.

  • They, too, could just suck.

(And all of that could happen in just the opening phone call!)

The question is, how do we minimize the days when salespeople are ineffective and maximize the days when they are on their game? What would a ballplayer do?

In baseball, players would take lots of batting practice. They watch video; hit off the tee; hit soft toss; hit off a machine; hit against live pitching; practice bunting, hitting to the opposite field, and situational hitting; and more – before and after every game. There’s extra practice between games. That’s what the best baseball players in the world do. They are already elite and working hard to make sure they stay that way. After all, there could be a big contract at stake.

Elite salespeople make up the top 6 percent of the sales population. They practice more than the bottom 74 percent combined! They have sales coaches; push themselves; and prepare for their most difficult sales scenarios by watching videos, role-playing, and reading books, articles, and blogs – a lot.

They are constantly thinking about their opportunities and a valid reason to make a follow-up call, studying their notes, analyzing their competition, strategizing ways to win deals, and they’re role-playing, even if the role play takes place in their own mind. They record their phone calls, listen to how they sound, and identify areas where they could improve. They live in their CRM system. They do the things they dislike first. They don’t allow fear, negative thoughts, or negative people to influence them. They are confident but not overly optimistic. They know that they must question everything they hear. That’s what they do better than anyone else: push back, challenge, question, and question some more – but nicely.

What should you begin doing to improve yourself? Here are the 10 areas for you to consider.

    1. Sales process: Yours should be consistent, effective, milestone-centric, and predictable.

    2. Great tonality: People enjoy talking with you because of how you sound.

  1. Consultative selling: Develop excellent listening and questioning skills.

  2. Qualifying: You know for certain when an opportunity is real.

  3. CRM: You learn how to live in and leverage your CRM application.

  4. Pipeline: It is always stuffed with the right number of opportunities that are the right size.

  5. Persistence: You will make the 10 to 15 attempts to reach the person who is not returning calls or email.

  6. Social selling: You make full use of LinkedIn to leverage your network

  7. Closing: When you have an opportunity to close, you close.

  8. Trusted advisor: Prospects and customers alike view you, not as a vendor, supplier, salesperson, or option, but as a partner or subject matter expert.

In how many of these areas could you improve? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Are Salespeople Born Competitive?

Kevin McGirlToday’s post is by Kevin McGirl, president of sales-i, award-winning business intelligence software that simplifies and improves the sales process.

 


What brings out our inner Usain Bolt? No, I’m not talking about how fast we can run. I’m talking about that competitive edge and drive to succeed. Are we born with it, or does it emerge when we pick up the phone in our first sales role?

It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot. In an industry such as sales, where a strong stereotype of the typical employee exists, can we determine whether it is the job that forms the personality or the personality that is destined for the job?

Recently, I set out to find an answer and, along with my company, surveyed 254 sales professionals across the United States and United Kingdom. The results showed that a salesperson’s personality and subsequent career may be decided from an early age.

Kevin McGirl blog post INFOGRAPHIC  (1)

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Sixty-eight percent say they were made to earn their pocket money as a child.

  • Thirty-one percent were first employed at age 13.

  • Seventy percent belonged to at least one school sports team.

  • Thirty-six percent selected “competitive” as a principal childhood characteristic. Qualities including “social,” “driven,” and “positive” were also indicated.

  • Ninety-two percent have at least one sibling (39 percent have more than three), and 38 percent are the eldest (eldest children tend toward diligence).

  • Sixty-six percent were popular at school. Only 7 percent were unpopular, while 3 percent say they were bullied.

  • In the United States, 55 percent of those with a parent working in sales chose sales as a first career choice.

When analyzing these results, I thought it useful to get a psychologist’s point of view. Enter professor Cary Cooper, CBE, from the United Kingdom. He confirmed that the survey reveals an unmistakable personality type for salespeople and commented that what’s really important for salespeople is to define themselves as competitive, driven, pragmatic, and confident.

This “unmistakable personality type” is something that employers might want to look for in candidates when hiring. Making the wrong hire is costly to the business, so if a future selling star can be identified by his or her personality, then great!

Sadly, reality is never as simple as that; hiring someone who fits a profile won’t guarantee striking employee gold, and I caution anyone from hiring a person based purely on confidence. I know plenty of confident, driven people who would struggle in a sales role. I also know people who, while quiet and demure in their personal lives, are selling gods in their professional ones.  

Ultimately, it is the sales manager’s responsibility to tease the best out of the team. Personality will get someone only so far, and whether a person is competitive or not, he or she will still need the right training, plenty of support, and the right technology to succeed. In fact, of the salespeople we spoke to, 57 percent told us that nurturing by managers and team leaders has helped them improve their selling ability.

So what’s the real takeaway from this survey? Good, nurturing leaders are key to a team’s success. Yes, a person with a particular personality type is more likely to end up working in sales, but personality doesn’t promise success. Concentrate on up-skilling staff, giving team members the tools they need to succeed and nurturing their talent, and you’ll soon find yourself with a high-performing sales team that meets and exceeds targets month after month.


Why Salespeople Should Ask the Big Questions

Bill Dellecker Today’s post is by Bill Dellecker, president of Austin Outdoor. It appeared originally on the Austin Outdoor blog and is used here with permission.

 

 

 



If you don’t ask, who will?  What’s the price of remaining silent?  Will you miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime?

The world is a busy place, and it’s not going to slow down to figure out what you want.  It’s up to you to use your voice and ask about the things that matter most to you.  

  • Do you remember the days when you had to ask your parents for permission to do something?

  • As you grew up, did you learn how to ask teachers to explain a subject one more time or in a different way,  or did you ever ask an expanded question?

  • Have you asked someone on a date or for a lifelong commitment?

  • Do you know how to ask a team member to find a way to produce more?

  • Are you willing to ask the “hard questions,”  or do you avoid them?

  • Have you asked what success looks like to those with whom you work?

  • Are you willing to dig deep and ask more of yourself?

  • Do you make sure to always ask why?

  • If you ask a question but the answer isn’t what you expect (or want), what happens next?

  • Do you really want to know the answer when you ask, “How are you doing?”  (If not, why ask?)

  • Are you willing to ask yourself to step up, to do more?  What inspires you to push yourself to accomplish more?

  • Have you ever asked a customer what’s most important to him or her?  How about a family member?

  • When you ask someone to do something, does that person know why?  Shouldn’t he or she know why?

If you’re not willing to ask the questions, then how will you know what others care most about?  More importantly, how will you know what direction to take with your own life and career?  The answer may be yes, no, or maybe, but it’s most certainly equal to a no if you never ask the question in the first place!

Success and happiness begin with asking great questions but depend upon listening to the answers – and then actually doing something with them!  

What have you asked about today? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Two Tactics to Get Your Prospecting Email Opened

Sue HCToday’s guest post is by Sue Hershkowitz-Coore.

 

 

 


At this moment, I have 135 emails in my inbox. I admit to using my inbox as my to-do list, and you may be a “zero-email inboxer.” Either way, we are both being strategic about the email we deal with and how we deal with it.

Whether your prospects favor one extreme or the other, the only way to persuade them to read, archive, or act (hallelujah!) on your email message is to keep it concise and totally relevant. 

Tactic #1: Respect your customer.

The clearest sign of respect is to show value for time.  A long email filled with product features or one that doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than to toot the writer’s horn is just wrong, but even a concise email can be disrespectful.

Here is an example of a concise sales effort gone bad:

Hi Name,

I trust this email finds you well. We would like to secure a date to come and an discuss opportunities. How does your calendar look the week of January 6, 2014?

Best...

Really?

The first sentence is the tip off. Instead of providing an authentic touch point, the email begins with a throwaway sentence. More than that, it reads as if the writer is living in the 19th century! He “trusts” the email finds the recipient well? Who talks like that?

The next sentence is all about the writer and his opportunities. It provides no motivation for the buyer. Oh, and the typos were part of the original email.

The last sentence provides a semi-action. How does my calendar look, you ask? Busy. Very, very busy.

Respect customers by crafting a brief message that helps them see the value in taking precious time to talk to you. Help them understand why it might be to their advantage to meet with you.

And don’t make them take the next step! Make their life easy. Offer to phone them the week of January 6, and suggest that, if there is a time that is most convenient for them, you’ll follow up as they suggest. Take control and make them feel safe in advancing their buying process with you.

Tactic #2: Be relevant.

Upon receiving a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 12 sleeping rooms for one night and a boardroom with accompanying food and beverage, the eager salesperson emailed back:

Thank you for your request! When you see our new 241-slip marina, you will know you made a great choice selecting ABC Hotel.

What? Did the RFP mention a flotilla, and I just missed that part? (And how inauthentic, as an RFP indicates only a consideration of the hotel, not a commitment to select it!)

Just because you are excited about an aspect of your product or service doesn’t mean your customers will be. Align your messaging with what matters to them, not to what excites you. When you can transfer the passion you feel for your product to passion for the prospect’s success, you will enjoy unlimited success.


How to Get Better Responses to Sales Emails

LisaRussellToday's guest post is by Lisa Russell, director of marketing at PointDrive.

 

 

We know the value of in-person meetings. You can quickly gauge your audience’s interest, get a read on who the key decision makers are, and see which of your materials most attracts them.

In-person meetings are highly effective. They’re also expensive and time consuming. In part, that accounts for the rise in inside sales teams, which can rake in new customers at 40 to 90 percent lower cost than field sales reps, according to ZS Associates and Harvard Business Review.

Email and conference calls are great ways to reach lots of people with very little investment in time and travel expenses, but everyone uses communication platforms such as email to try to reach prospects and customers. The result is clogged sales pipelines. You email a presentation, sales pitch, or proposal to a client and hear nothing back for weeks (or ever). Selling with a smile and a handshake will not be what it once was, but the good news is that the era of digital selling is still evolving.

Imagine, for example, being able to access more information about your customer’s behavior without leaving your desk. What if you could be instantly alerted via email to a real-time report of how your prospect interacted with your materials? How about gaining the ability to know whenever a prospect or customer

* clicks a link;

* views a PDF, image, or document;

* forwards your materials to a colleague;

* fails to open your presentation at all.

These are the kinds of metrics offered by our PointDrive Insights solution. We find that, once salespeople are armed with this kind of information, they gain far more control over the next steps in the deal cycle.

Gone are the days of simply crossing your fingers as you send your email. With technology such as PointDrive, the metrics behind each presentation provide you with the ability to make more intelligent, real-time decisions. Knowing the instant recipients have viewed your presentation and which assets they've opened allows you to be quicker, more informed, and more prepared for your follow-up. The result is a better match between the customer and you – in real time.

Read about one user's experience with PointDrive. 


Steps to Become a More Consultative Seller

DaveKurlan_75x100Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.

 

I was driving my 12-year old son to school, and an old Smokey Robinson & the Miracles song, “Tears of a Clown,” began playing on the radio. These days, satellite radio stations also show album art, and he noticed that Robinson looked rather artificial in his most recent photo. I had to explain that when celebrities begin to age, they often choose to have facelifts, and then their eyebrows end up looking like they are glued in the wrong place.

I asked if he remembered Mr. Potato Head, and when he said he did, I joked that facelifts are like playing with Mr. Potato Head, except licensed doctors, not toddlers, rearrange people’s faces.

After he stopped laughing, our exchange got me thinking that much of what happens when salespeople are trained to sell consultatively can be compared with a facelift. The training is supposed to help them look and sound better (better than when they were selling transactionally) but instead, the results often look and sound wrong. Why is that?

I can teach salespeople to sell consultatively in about three hours. Salespeople can learn to sell consultatively from a book, blog, video, or their sales managers. That combination of sources is merely knowledge, but knowledge doesn’t change behavior.

In order to achieve a behavioral change, new skills must be developed, and in this case, the consultative approach requires exceptional listening and questioning skills. 

It can take months, not hours, to develop these skills, and until then, weak selling skills just look and sound wrong. A salesperson must have some serious incentive in order to begin that journey toward change. Unfortunately, a company’s desire to employ salespeople who sell consultatively is not incentive enough. This incentive must come from within the salesperson. That is why intrinsically motivated salespeople are more likely to embrace this change than extrinsically motivated salespeople.

Extrinsics are the salespeople who traditionally have been motivated by money.  Intrinsics are motivated more by a love of what they do, the desire to master their craft, satisfaction and fulfillment, recognition and praise, and even the desire to win.

To help salespeople begin the journey to become more consultative in their sales approach, consider the following pieces that must come together to form the complete consultative seller:

  • An outside sales trainer with great content and exceptional role-playing skills who can demonstrate the consultative conversation in the context of any industry, sales cycle, vertical, sales call, or scenario.
  • A sales manager who has been trained and coached to coach his/her salespeople on this more effective, very necessary approach to selling.
  • Patience: this process will take 8 to 12 months, not 8 to 12 hours!
  • Commitment: you must show your commitment to the desired outcome, journey, and training and coaching, and hold salespeople accountable every step of the way.
  • Homework: the training and coaching are important, but so is the work that your salespeople must do on their own, watching videos and repeatedly listening to the role plays on their own time.
  • The right salespeople: attempting to begin this journey with the wrong salespeople is a waste of time and money.
  • A well-defined sales process: a consultative approach within a sales process that has not been customized or optimized for selling in 2014 will create conflicts, tend to be uneven, and make this journey more difficult than it needs to be.

Selling today requires a consultative approach. There is no need for a consultative approach to look and sound like a bad facelift. Commit to making the full transition to consultative selling – and commit to doing it right – and everything will look and sound great.


How to Prep for a Sales Call

KyledoughertyToday's guest post is by Kyle Dougherty, sales development representative at Prialto. This post appeared originally on the Prialto blog and is used here with permission.

 

We hear salespeople say that they’ve “got to go make some calls.” What goes into making these calls, though? To whom should you reach out? Where can you find that phone number to call? It’s not like a prospective customer was born into your CRM. Even if his or her information was there before you joined the company, someone added it there.

In business-to-business (B2B) sales, there are a number of steps that precede picking up the phone to make a pitch. In fact, the actual phone call is just the final step in a long, organized process. Here’s what you’ll need to do to prep for that call.

1. Create target profiles. If you, as a sales rep, got on the phone with Andrew Mason more than a year ago, you’d be over the moon. He was the CEO of Groupon, leader of a billion-dollar company. If you got on the phone with him today, it would be a different story – not quite the same as what you’d targeted more than a year ago. The person you are calling obviously needs to be part of a company that is in your target. How do you define this? Before you even start looking for a phone number, you’ll need to build a target-account profile (or even two or three profiles) to pinpoint the companies that are the best fit as customers. These profiles should be based on a number of factors, including industry, revenue, company size, and location. There’s no point in making a phone call if your target doesn’t fit your customer profile.

2. Find target accounts. This is grunt work, as are many of these steps. You have to pore through relevant industry journals, Twitter feeds, and blogs. To go really deep, you might scour lists of exhibitors and sponsors at relevant conferences or find annual “top 100” lists of companies in certain verticals. Making that cold-call pitch is going to be pretty difficult if you don’t have a sense of the target’s industry, competitors, or needs.

3. Home in on target titles. What titles would have interest and/or purchasing power within your target accounts? Look over your current customer base and figure out who championed your product or service, and compare that to who made the final decision. Let’s say you have a personal or preexisting professional relationship that got you in a target account’s door. When you had that first meeting, to whom did your acquaintance first introduce you? That’s typically one of the top titles to search for.

4. Find contact information and enter it into your CRM. More grunt work, my friend. While there are some practices around it, this step will take up the most time in this process. Once you’ve found the contact, you have to mass import it into your CRM.

5. Send a mass email to these individual prospects to find the best contact. Wait – you’re not going to do that? Time to click on a “Come to Jesus” link.

6. Manage responses and target opens. People are going to respond to your email with interest, a question, a referral, or a request to be removed from your list – or a million other responses. You have to get back to these people and try to get them, or the person they referred, to a qualification call. Then you have to update relevant fields in your CRM. After that, it’s time to track opens. Our general rule is that if recipients open your email more than three times, you should follow up with a call, which, in turn, leads to the final step.

7. Make THE CALL. Six steps before you get on the phone (four if you’re not mass emailing) and even before you actually pick up the phone, you should find out the best times of the day/week to make those cold calls.

As you can see, there are a lot of steps that go into “making some calls.”  So the question is, as a salesperson, are you wasting your time and company’s money by doing every element of this process yourself? Shouldn’t you be focusing on the high-touch, honestly more interesting aspects of the process (which are clearly 1, 3, 6, and 7)?

Steps 1 and 3 need to happen only once. So in a way, “making some calls” is eventually just that. The call is when the pitch is made, the qualification completed, and the sale predicted, but there is always a process that gets you there. That process needs to be professional and fine-tuned. What it doesn’t need to be is to be on your plate. Most of your precall process should be done by sales support.


The Secret Formula for Earning Business Referrals

Ian Altman Today’s guest post is by Ian Altman, CEO of Grow My Revenue, LLC. He is the author of the Amazon #1 best seller, Upside Down Sellingand he coauthored his new book, Same Side Selling, with Jack Quarles of Buying Excellence.






You know how important referrals can be to growing your business. While the cold call is the lowest opportunity in the sales profession’s food chain, the quality referral could be the pinnacle. I had the pleasure of being in the audience for the Institute for Excellence in Sales and Business Development's recent session in Northern Virginia, and Bill Cates was a speaker (not the Microsoft guy – Cates with a “C”). Cates is known as the Referral Coach, and he’s a highly acclaimed speaker on the topic of referrals. He is especially well known in the financial-services sector.

I went to the session knowing that I would be engaged and entertained by a very capable speaker. I’m ashamed to say that I was not expecting to learn much. As anticipated, I discovered that Cates is a fantastic professional speaker and storyteller. The embarrassing part for me was that he shared some principles that I knew I had heard before but had forgotten. In fact, not only had I heard some of these principles, I had actually written an entire chapter about referrals in my first book, Upside Down Selling.

Valuable Advice

Cates shared a formulaic approach, called VIPS, to earning referrals. He described the difference between a basic referral and a personal introduction. The basic referral is akin to  someone pointing you toward the opening of a lion’s den: you’re referred to the opening, but proceed at your peril. The personal introduction, however, is based on value, and value is what the first letter of Cates’s VIPS method stands for. These top-tier introductions take referrals to an elevated level of opportunity.

In our upcoming book, Same Side Selling, Jack Quarles and I devote an entire chapter to delivering value. Quite simply, you can either ask your client for a referral that sounds like a favor to you, or you can ask for a personal introduction based on the value you deliver.

As we discuss in the book, executives make decisions based first on why they need what you are selling or what problem it solves for them. Second, executives want to work with the vendor they feel is most likely to deliver the results they need. Here’s how this plays out for a great referral.

The Formula for a Great Personal Introduction

People don’t like to feel as if they are being sold. For that and the reasons stated above, the best referrals follow a set formula:  

1) This is the problem were we facing when we called on them for help,

2) this was our outcome,

3) here’s why I think they might be a good resource for you or people you know.

A great introduction from one of my clients to one of their friends or colleagues might sound like this: “We faced pricing pressure on every deal. Our great stuff was being treated like a commodity. After just a few months, we have shortened our sales cycles and dramatically improved margins. I remember when we spoke a while back, you were facing similar challenges. I’d be happy to make an introduction if you’d like to see if they can help you, too.”

Notice how the recipient of the introduction gets a clear message about the problem you solve and the likely outcome or result. It’s much stronger than this example: “We bought some stuff from Joe Blow. Would you mind if I gave him your name?” Getting a referral so that you can try to sell the recipient something is about as valuable as an email introduction to your third-level LinkedIn connection.

Another Unanticipated Lesson

I was fortunate to have been in the audience when Bill Cates was speaking. As an author and speaker on the subject of sales, I arrogantly showed up not expecting to learn anything. Sometimes hearing the same message from a different perspective can remind us of things we used to know and somehow neglected. Cates ended his session by sharing a great way to inspire referrals without sounding pushy. He tells his audiences to remember to say to clients, “Don’t keep us a secret.”

Please share in the comments your best referral story and/or most pathetic referral story.