This week I’d like to go deeper with Step 2 of the 4 Step Fearless Referral Process: Who – and focus on three strategies to fish and ask for specific names because there are several ways to identify names that others know and like who sound like good prospects. You need a toolkit of approaches. No strategy works every time. You can’t just source names off LinkedIn and feed them to people.
You want to feel resourceful about amassing prospects. This habit feeds your livelihood.
My first and favorite strategy is: Use the Box
Put a box in the top right corner of your meeting notes page and, when you meet with someone, write down names that come up. Firstly, it's your reminder throughout the meeting to say to yourself: ‘what names have been mentioned so far by this other person of people that they know and like who sound like a good prospect for me?’
It's a useful visual reminder. I've learned over the years that everybody's having good conversations with their clients about other people. But only about 20% of advisors write these names down thinking to themselves: ‘Okay, I want to follow up about that person because he or she sounds like a good prospect and somebody I could potentially help.’
The box makes it easier to keep all the information in one place. It also helps you listen more carefully. I’ve found that 80% of advisors miss names that get mentioned in meetings. These names seem off-topic to what’s being discussed. They have nothing to do with their meeting agenda. They are not thinking resourcefully about business opportunities. It only becomes important when YOU make the connection that any name mentioned in a meeting could be your next client – so long as it’s someone they know and like who sounds like a good prospect to you.
Now, if you are saying to yourself, well Matt, names don't always come up in meetings. That's true. They don't. Some meetings do laser in on one technical topic.
That leads us to strategy 2: Use Fishing Questions
Suppose you are having a technical meeting and notice an empty box. In that case, that’s also your visual reminder to start asking what I call fishing questions – discovery questions that help you fish around to try to find out who they know and like who sound like good prospects! How else are you going to find anything out?
There are two primary directions you can choose to ask about depending on where you think the best opportunities lie:
Their network or their professional network.
If they're working, then ask them about where they work. It would be a good idea with some of your clients to create a work tree. How many other people at this company have the same job title as my client? Who do they report to or how many people report to them – to get a feel for where the best opportunities are. And that's really all this comes down to.
Ask more questions. If you haven't done this before consciously, you might want to write down the questions on your notes in advance. I mean, write down a couple of questions you'd like to ask. If it makes you feel a bit awkward, abbreviate the question so that it doesn't mean anything to anybody else. It's just a series of letters or prompts for you to remind yourself about.
Now, if this is someone you've known for a while and you've never asked them about their family or about where they work, you might feel self-conscious about bringing it up because you haven't brought it up before. That's when transition wording can be helpful. And firstly, let me remind you that that other person knows you haven't asked them about their children or much about their job before. We remember things like this.
You might as well be honest and say: ‘I know we've been working together for three years now – and I apologize I’ve not asked you before – but I don’t really know much about what you do over at A-B-C company as a vice president. Tom, can you tell me a bit more about your role there?’
You will still want fishing questions to learn about people. Then the art of this is to mix up the questions. I call this weaving. Weave between professional and personal questions so it doesn’t feel like an interrogation. Weave between questions to learn about people in their network and questions on completely different topics that have nothing to do with sourcing names such as:
What type of projects do you work on mostly? Or
Are most of your clients local or do you have clients all over the country? – to mix it up and make sure it flows like a conversation. Or ask a question about their family.
Transition wording is wording to help you change the direction of the conversation. For example:
“It occurred to me the other day that I've never asked you much about the work you do.’ or,
‘I realized as I was preparing our meeting today – and I’m sorry about this, but I don't know much about your family beyond you and Neil. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
You might ask: ‘Where are you from originally?’ or ‘What did you do before you started working at XYZ company?”
Be prepared to feel a bit uncomfortable with this at first because it may be a new habit for you to be doing this intentionally rather than simply talking about whatever might happen to come up. Please be assured that there are 10,000’s of people just like you globally who do this naturally and it’s a perfectly acceptable way to engage and be genuinely curious about another person rather than it being a cynical sales ploy to manipulate someone into coughing up names on your way to world domination. Learn to make it an interesting conversation with another human being about people and projects going on in their life and you will be fine adapting. The biggest sticking point for most people is that names haven't been written down in the past.
Strategy 3: Generic Specifics
My third strategy is for meetings where you don't know anybody they know and like to ask about specifically. I call these generic specifics. They are great because you could use these today or tomorrow even if you're going into a meeting and you don't know who that other person knows.
You want to pick a specific small group of people instead of a potentially large group. Why? Because almost no one is going to make a quality personal introduction to more than one or two people at a time, you want to make it easy for them by asking in a way that helps them identify one or two people.
Example 1: Instead of saying “do you know any family members I can help?” which could be 20 or 40 people, ask: “of your siblings, who are you closest to that you’d be most comfortable introducing me to?”
Keep in mind, you always want your ask for someone they know and LIKE who sounds like a good prospect, so you don’t want to put someone in an awkward spot by asking them to introduce you to somebody they don’t get on with. It’s the same with teams that people are on at work.
Example 2: Instead of saying “do you know any co-workers I can help?” – when I was a school teacher 25 years ago, there were 60 people in the building and I wasn’t even that fond of everyone on my team – a more effective ask is: “of your co-workers, who do you get on best with that you’d be most comfortable introducing me to?”
Example 3: If it's a business owner and you don’t know specific people in their life beyond their immediate family, you could ask:
“Where do you get your business? Most of mine comes from word of mouth. How about you?”
Then you might ask: “Who are your best referral sources?” That’s my favorite question because everyone loves talking about the people who their best sources of business are.
“What types of clients do you most enjoy working with?” You may have to dig deeper on this than the initial response you get which tends to be quite general, because remember, you’re trying to find out about specific people that they know and like who sound like good prospects. Have the courage to keep digging; it took me years to learn this.
You probably wouldn't ask: “who are your favorite clients? What are their names?” That’s too direct so you go back to fishing questions and try to discover who they like working with.
The best generic ask for a COI (center of influence) is to ask about a small group in a specific situation: “Of your business owner clients who are thinking about selling, who do you get on best with that you’d be most comfortable introducing me to?”
My favorite language to transition into an ask is:
“It would be silly of me not to ask you about such and such a person, because:
I do a lot of work with people in that situation or in that industry” or
“Because I've helped a lot of people like that.”
“How would you be most comfortable introducing us?”
No one will come back to you and say, yes, it is a silly question.
If the word ‘silly’ sounds too silly to you, then change it and say ‘it would be daft of me not to ask’ or ‘remiss of me not to ask’ or ‘mad, barmy, crazy, foolish’ – something along those lines. It's a very disarming way to ask for what you want.
The moral of the story – the most important part of your referral-getting journey – is fish and ask for specific names. Harness that to your power habit for making specific asks and you will do really well.
To be clear about what you want!
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121