When it comes to making our next sale, there are essentially three ways to go about it:
- Selling our services to new clients
- Selling more to existing clients
- Selling to clients who were referred by current clients
Selling our services to new clients is by far the most the most demanding, the most difficult and to many people the most frustrating experience. It takes a lot of no’s to get to a yes, and no matter how skilled we are, we will never be able to win every sale. What’s more the sales cycle is longer when it comes to selling new services, which means that our pipeline can suffer if we rely too heavily on new business.
Selling more to existing clients is by far the easiest one out of the three, and sometimes it feels like we just need to get out of the client’s way and allow them to buy. The sales cycle here is usually very short, and can sometimes be almost instantaneous. What the best advisors do consistently when it comes to selling more to existing clients is to think ahead in terms of what the client might need. In other words, it’s not a matter of asking the client to buy more, but more a matter of being close enough to the client that we can anticipate how we can fulfill their needs before the client. This necessitates that we know the client intimately, and that we have a solid understanding of where they want to go and what they’re trying to achieve. The best advisors consistently suggest ways to help their client get closer to their goal, and in so doing they continuously build trust and influence with the client. In addition they nudge the client to get into the habit of buying from them, and which in turn lowers the barrier to the next order.
Selling to client who were referred by current clients however, it something that only the rarest of the rare advisors do, even though you have more than enough trust to do so.
What’s problematic about this fact, is that when you “forget” to ask about referrals you leave money on the table.
I’ve coached many a client who struggled to keep their business afloat, because they found it hard to generate enough new business to keep it going. The most common denominator among this group, is that they rarely – if ever – ask for referrals.
On the contrary, I’ve never seen an advisor who methodically and systematically asks for referrals, who struggles. It’s that powerful.
And yet the advisors who do do it consistently are few and far between – why?
The reason is almost comically simple – namely that only the rarest advisors ask for referrals in the first place. This is in spite of the fact that it is supposedly agonizingly simple. All you have to do is ask right?
Well – yes and no. There is an art and a science to asking your clients for referrals in a way, that won’t make either of you cringe, and at the same time, will make it obvious to your client that not only are they helping you, but they are also helping their professional relations help themselves.
What you want to avoid is making it seem like you’re asking (begging) for a favor. Instead, you want to be assertive about your own value, and how you it can help your client’s clients and peers as well.
There is no magic bullet or single sentence that gets you the referral every time – the key is to continuously position yourself to ask for referrals throughout your business engagement.
This means that once you start your relationship with your client you say something to the effect of: “Once you and I start realizing the value from this project together, I’ll ask you who else you might know that might benefit from my services – is that okay with you?”
Then as you make progress you can add to that first effort by saying something to the effect of: “We’ve made some progress together now, and you seem to like what you’ve seen so far. Who do you know that might also benefit from generating the same results?”
Which means that you can even ask a third time at the completion of the project: “Now that we’re finished, I’m sure you’ll agree that we’ve made solid progress, and we’ve seen some strong results already. Who do you know that would be interested in generating the same type of results?”
The main point of this story is that you want to make it as natural as possible to ask for referrals as you can, and you want to continuously ask throughout the project, so that you give yourself the best possible chance of getting as many quality referrals as possible.