Why You Should Focus on Getting Referral Sources
I was talking with an advisor last week about how to get into conversations about what he does. He was relaying the story of going jogging with a friend who could be a good client but is, more importantly, connected to a large network of people who fit this advisors ideal client description.
And this friend happened to bring up someone he knows who may be facing a situation that fits the advisor’s specialty. “I made the same mistake I always make” the advisor told me. “I just started talking about what I do.” The conversation went on for a short time after that, but the friend did not pursue any further information.
Ever found yourself in that situation? Talking with a great prospective client who needs what you do but when you bring up what you do the conversation tapers off? Here’s a strategy you can try. Rather than talking about what you can offer, find out how you can help them. Who you can connect them to.
The more you can help people the more they will refer.
It gets back to the primary motivation behind making a referral. People refer because they want to help a friend (or family member, or client) solve a problem. If you actively engage with them to help them find a solution, they will think more of you. They will look to you for other things. Eventually, you will be that solution.
One of the comments I hear frequently from client advisory boards is how much clients appreciate their advisors willingness and ability to connect them to other people who can help. “If they can’t do it, they know someone who can” is one way they describe it. And it is one of the things those clients value most about their relationship with the advisor.
It invokes the law of reciprocity. If you do good things for someone, they will want to do good things for you. It also sets you up to be a source of good solutions, good connections. If you have a reputation for knowing who to call, you will get called more often.
Habitually introducing people has power. Making a practice of introducing people to each other made shy, introverted Adam Rifkin one of the world’s top relationship builders. “Connecting people who can benefit each other is the most useful skill you can have on the entrepreneurial ladder of skills” says James Altucher. “When you help others make money by connecting them together, the world forces itself into the Möbius strip of success that brings the money right back to you times ten.”
Besides, asking how you can help a good referral source gets them talking about themselves which will always be more interesting to them than talking about you.
Write out a few questions you might ask someone who starts talking about a challenge they face or that a friend is grappling with. Get into the habit of connecting people with other people or resources that will help them succeed. You will find yourself and lots more conversations with people who want to know how you can help them.
I Have A Brand And It Haunts Me
I was talking to my pal “Jonas” who recently decided to freelance (vs building a multi-consultant business) when he left a bigger firm to do his own thing.
Jonas is a global talent guy who works across the planet for some of the world’s most well known companies. He decided his best play—the one that would allow him to focus on what he loves most and live the life he’s planned—is to freelance for other firms.
His plan got off to a bit of a rocky start because—get this—none of the firms he approached believed he’d actually want to “just” freelance. He’d earned his rep by steadily building deep, brand name client relationships, practices and business, not by going off by himself as a solo.
Or as he put it “I have a brand and it haunts me.”
We both had a good belly laugh because he was already rolling in new projects, thrilled with his choice to freelance.
And yet, isn’t that the truth?
Good, bad, indifferent—our brands DO haunt us.
They whisper messages to those in our circle “trust him, he’s the bomb”, “hire her for anything creative as long as your deadline isn’t critical”, “steer clear—he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver”.
And thanks to social media, those messages—good and bad—can accelerate faster than you can imagine. One client, one reader, one buyer can be the pivot point that takes your consulting business to new territory.
So how do you deal with it?
Yep—you go for more of what comes naturally. In Jonas’ case, he stuck with what he’s known for—his work, his relationships, his track record for integrity—and won over any lingering skepticism about his move.
We weather the bumps in the road by staying true to who we are at our core.
So when a potential client says “Sorry, you’re just too expensive for me”, you don’t run out and change your prices. Instead, you listen carefully and realize they aren’t the right fit for your particular brand of expertise and service.
When a social media troll chooses you to lash out at, you ignore them and stay with your true audience—your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
And when your most challenging client tells you it’s time to change your business model to serve them better, you listen closely (there may be some learning here) and—if it doesn’t suit your strengths—you kiss them good-bye.
If your brand isn’t haunting you, is it really much of a brand?
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