In 2004 I was at a BNI meeting in Bath (southwest England). If you're unfamiliar with BNI, it’s a weekly networking group with one person per profession that meets purely intending to pass referrals between members. There was a marketing professional in the room who'd been a member of the group for six months and he was fed up because every week he'd get up and say: “If you know anyone who could benefit from our marketing services, please have them give me a call. I'm Graham Massey at ABC Marketing.” And he'd get no referrals.
Then one week he showed up to the meeting, 35 people were sitting around this enormous conference table, and he handed out copies of this printed list. On it he had typed the names of 30 area companies, the names of the decision maker and the company's locations. It was about 80% complete and he passed it around the table.
When it got to across from where I was sitting, there was a chap called Peter Giles who sold photocopiers for Canon. As he looked at the list, he said: “Oh, Graham, you've got my best client on here. Yes, happy to make the introduction.”
And then it carried on around the table and this lady was sitting next to me. She looked at the list, burst out laughing and said: “Graham, you've got my next-door neighbour on here! Yes. More than happy to introduce you to her. “
That was the day I learned that it doesn't work to cast a wide net when you’re asking for a referral. Using the word “anyone” doesn't work because people will think of no one. What works is to spell out exactly who you want to meet. That's the principle that you want to apply.
Other than the mindset that you’re just trying to help others, this is the most important part of getting referrals. Narrow down what you want to one person, one company, and one ask at a time.
It’s crucial to understand that it's your job – not anyone else's – to identify exactly who you want to meet and ask to be introduced to those people. That's the paradigm shift with getting referrals. Don’t hope other people will think of someone. It's up to you to make that happen. And when you do, it also makes it easy for people to help you.
Your job with the second step in the Fearless Referral Process is to find out who people know and like who sound like good prospects for you. You really want to hardwire that into your brain.
Steve Lewis, one of the people who endorsed my book, put his problem another way:
“Before I read Matt’s book and started his referral coaching, I asked by saying, ‘I build my business by referral. Do you know of anyone I can help?’ I would often get a ‘let me think about that.’ I would also get referrals that never materialised into meetings. With Matt’s help, I have a method to get consistent referrals and am helping more new clients than ever before. In the past five months, I’ve generated over 40 new referrals, brought in 10 new clients and have in excess of 100 million dollars in my newly built pipeline.”
Steve was comfortable asking for referrals but rarely got any because he was not specific about what he wanted. He was too vague. He cast a wide net and seldom had success.
Avoid saying ‘anyone’ when you ask. When we hear the word ‘anyone’, our brains shut down. If I say to you: “Do you know anyone that likes sport? Do you know anyone that likes going on holiday? Do you know anyone who would like to make more money or have less stress?” Well, of course you know lots of people that fit that description, but nobody comes to mind because it applies to too many people. The problem is an overwhelming number of people will come to mind and your brain fogs over. It shuts down.
When the other person responds by saying ‘let me think about it,’ that means is you have failed to be specific enough. Most people will forget all about it because they've got other things in their world that are more important.
How to be crystal clear about what you're looking for:
Option 1: Name a specific name.
Option 2: If you don't know the name, pick a job title that only applies to two or three people.
Option 3: Ask about a specific life situation – one or two other people close to retirement at the same company; one or two friends that are also expecting a baby or going through a divorce.
Option 4: Make an ask that narrows down the possibilities to one or two people: “Of the people you work with, who do you get along best with that you'd be most comfortable introducing me to?”
This can work well with ANY small group of people: siblings; committee members; people you play tennis with; neighbours etc. The idea is that one name comes to mind. It's specific and tangible and it makes it easy for people; they don’t have to think about it because most of the time they are not going to. The beauty of this step is to help you ask for what you want and avoid referrals that you don’t want.
If you want to get referred up the food chain, if you want to work with more affluent people, spell it out. If you want to work with more dentists, pharmacists, doctors or executives in a certain firm or business owners of a certain sized business, it's your job to tell people: “I'm focusing my business increasingly on helping people in this situation or who are in this line of work.”
What's nice about that approach is you don't hurt people's feelings by saying, “Sorry. You're not good enough for me anymore.” You are saying, “Based on all the additional training I’ve done in recent years and the changing direction of my business, I focus primarily now on serving people who…,”- and no one can argue with you on that one.
This is how you get started with being more specific about the referrals you want. I’ll share more strategies next week.
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121