Recently, we’ve been talking about using referrals to gain appointments with prospects. In November, I wrote about “leverage” and how you can create influence over customers by building positive and productive relationships. This relational leverage is valuable because it gives dealers the ability to ask for important favors from customers, like referrals. Then, in December, we talked about how those referral calls typically go and why they work so well when engaging a prospect.
As we dive deeper into the process of gaining referrals, I want to mention a saying that I live by: “In a bad system, even a great salesperson will most likely fail. But in a great system, even an average salesperson will most likely succeed!” Our system to Gain Endless Referrals is called our “Vendor Referral Program.” Here are the main focal points:
Focal Point One – Identify Your Targets: Question: Who is most likely to give you referrals? Answer: People who know, like, and trust you. In most cases, these will be your new and existing customers. They likely would not have bought from you if they didn’t trust you. These are your initial targets.
Focal Point Two – Take Advantage of Leverage: Effective dealers have developed healthy relationships with their customers by engaging in open and helpful interactions. Now is when those efforts pay off. A customer who feels like they have a positive and productive relationship with a dealer will be inclined to appreciate that dealer and willing to help out when the dealer asks for a personal favor, like a referral list of their other vendors. Once you gain that information, you also have leverage over the referrals, because they will not want to alienate their customer and will feel obligated to accept a call or appointment. Through careful exertion of relational leverage, you become the center of a lead network that gets you past gatekeepers and in direct contact with prospect decision-makers.
Focal Point Three – Develop a Systematic Approach: Our process may sound easy, but it takes a great deal of intentional planning to be effective. You need a systematic approach with a well-designed word-track. This can begin as soon as you deliver inventory to a new or existing customer; simply let them know that you would like to follow up in two weeks to make sure the product is meeting expectations and to ask a few customer-service questions in a conversation that will only take about 10 minutes. The customer always says yes to this simple request. It is during this follow-up meeting that you implement your strategy. The examples I outlined in the past few months — November’s article about Gaining Referrals and December’s article about Calling Referrals — outline my exact word-tracks in an approach I have used over 200 times (in which I have never been turned down for referrals).
You might be thinking, “Ken, does this really work?” Of course it does, and here’s why:
- I built value by asking customer-service questions that contributed to a positive relationship.
- I asked how many vendors the customer had before I asked for the names. It is important that you get a solid, accurate number before you ask for referrals.
- I did not ask for their highly-guarded customers; I asked for vendor names which they almost never mind sharing.
- I used the positive comments from the customer to build equity that made it very difficult for the customer to answer with anything but a positive response.
- I not only asked for the company names, I asked for the decision-makers’ names. They will not always know who that person is but in most cases, they will.
- I made a promise that I would follow-up. This is extremely important! I will use that promise as leverage on my actual telephone call with the prospect when I say, “I promised [my referral source, your customer] that I would follow through.”
You should only run into one problem if you use this system… you will have to stop asking for referrals because you won’t be able to keep up!! In one case I received over 1,000 company names! This system works, the real question is…will you?
About the Author
As the Founder and President of Commercial Truck Training, Ken has consulted, coached, and trained commercial dealers on individual, regional, and national business levels. Known as an industry leader, Ken has worked with companies like General Electric, General Motors, FCA, Ford, Commercial Truck Trader, and Equipment Trader.