Some of us have referral aversion, so we are challenged in asking for referrals. We also might be a behavioral style like a high Steady, which causes us to avoid bothering people so we view asking for referrals as bothering our client. We need to approach the referral process with the correct mindset, right skills, and right timing. Some of selling is being there at the right time. The same is true for referrals. Here are four rules to follow:
Rule #1 - Respect the referral process
My friend Bill Cates, the "Referral Coach" and author of the book Ultimate Referrals, taught me this - Referrals are hallowed territory. We are entering the domain of another person's most valued relationships. We are asking for access to their most intimate personal space and relationships. This is holy ground we are asking to tread on.
Don't merely use a throw away line like "Oh, by the way" before you ask for the referral. This tactic cheapens the referral process rather than raising it to the high level of honor and respect it deserves. The client can see right through this cheap technique. A quality referral request should take at least five minutes; the truth is ten would be better. I learned from Bill Cates to frame the referral request with the statement, "I have a very important question to ask you." This technique will force a pause, build anticipation, and set the tone for a valuable conversation.
Rule #2 - Ask for help
A referral is a request for assistance. We are asking our past clients, current clients and sphere for help. Too many of us feel funny about soliciting help. Many Agents feel it's beneath them to seek help. The trouble is usually our ego gets in the way, and it won't allow us to think or utter the words out of our mouth. "I value your help" or "I need your help" are key phrases to open the referral floodgate.
Rule #3 - Ask permission
We want to ask permission to explore who they know that might benefit from our service. We are asking permission to access areas of their life. We are trying to discover friends and associates we might be able to help. We can ask permission to explore using a script like this one:
"I'm delighted that I've been able to serve you. I am wondering about others you might know in your life who would also benefit from my service. Could we explore for a few minutes who else we might be able to serve?"
The final segment of the script is the Champion segment. It is telling them we need a little time together to probe and think about who they know. Too often, we are like a hit and run driver with referrals. We crash and then leave. We bring up the subject and leave the burden of thinking up names on them. Most people who are referral sources or referral alliances don't want to work that hard. They will work that hard with you, but not alone. Be willing to come alongside and help them. This will increase the quality, quantity, and frequency of the referrals you receive.
Rule #4 - Get specific
This rule is the most frequently forgotten. We usually have been taught to make the general referral request. We use general language like, "Who do you know that might want to buy or sell real estate?" This approach is akin to the department store clerk who asks, "May I help you?" The clerk, well over 90% of the time, receives what is called the "reflex no". It's the automated response we use when we, as consumers, are on autopilot. Let me give you a hint, autopilot customers are not good for salespeople. An autopilot or "reflex no" response to that clerk would be, "No, just looking." How many times have you said that to a clerk to get rid of them?
Using a general referral request script like, "Do you know someone who might benefit from my service?" will give you the same results as the store clerk or worse. You are setting yourself up for the reflex "no".
Focus the referral request by narrowing their field of choices. If we give them the whole world to choose from, it's easier to say no. Explore with them in niches or areas of their lives where they have relationships. Ask them about people in their immediate family, their small group at church, the people in their department at work, Bobby's soccer team, Susie's second grade class. If they are involved in social service organizations or clubs, have them pull out the roster and invest some time talking through the names on the list.
To engage in this technique effectively, you must be able to gather quality information about your clients and prospects. You have to know what your clients and their kids are involved in, so you can create a deeper connection with them and increase their value as a referral source.
We coach our clients to collect a profile on each client in key areas. This accomplishes two things. The first is it gives you questions and areas to dialogue with during your personal calls to them. It could take you a number of calls to secure a reasonable volume of information. I get asked all the time, "Okay I will call my clients and past clients, but what do I say?" Treat them like a friend, and see how they are doing. Then tell them something relevant in the real estate marketplace like interest rate increases, inventory level changes, appreciation results, or investment opportunities. It's easier to talk with people when you know their interests.
With our coaching client we use a form that has thirty-three questions to ask their referral sources over time to increase intimacy. When you ask them about certain areas of their lives, it's easier to explore and create referrals in that area. You will also feel more comfortable asking for referrals, and they will feel more comfortable sharing referrals because you didn't use some hokey line to do it.
If you really want to be a Champion, I have one more step for you. Have your computer technician program these "fields of interest" into your database management software with space to type in responses. When you are talking with the client, you can record the responses in your CRM program. Doing this will increase the ease of use dramatically. You will be able to see the information easily the next time you call. You have also increased access.
Your Assistants and Buyer's Agents can access the information as well. You can train them to use the information to create a connection with the client while they are servicing them. Imagine the warm feelings they will have about selecting the right Agent and Team to represent their interests when the Listing coordinator asks about Bobby's soccer team and how they are doing, or a year after moving, they call the Closing Coordinator to inquire about a document they misplaced, and she asks if they have been playing much golf. The typical client would fall out of their chair.
Another opportunity that is available when we program the database is searching different questions or search fields for commonality. Let's say you read a great article on a new golf course opening in your region soon. You go to your database under hobbies and interests and search golf. There are nineteen people in your database who are avid golfers. You photocopy the article for them and write a personal postscript of how much you enjoyed the article and thought of them. You might even add, "We should go play there when the course opens", if they are in that client category. Then stuff, lick, stamp, and mail it. When your client receives this from you, they will be blown away - all from your ability to get specific.