Harness the Power of Referrals to Make Prospecting Easier

By Jeff Beals

A client of mine once needed help opening a branch office in a different city.  I called a commercial real estate company owner I knew in that town.  The owner connected me with one of his young sales reps who was excited to receive the referral.  The rep thanked me profusely. I thought, “Well, I chose a great guy to do this deal!”

But that turned out to be the last time I heard from him.

Six months later, I ran into the client I had referred, and he told me he ended up doing a deal in that city. I asked how the rep to whom I connected him. My client’s response was troubling: “I actually never heard from him, so I used someone else.”

I was incensed. I called the sales rep and asked what had happened. He stammered a bit and basically told me he let the client “slip through the cracks.”  That was not something I wanted to hear.

The rep should have given my client extra attention simply because it was a client referred by someone. He should have sent me a short email each month during the deal keeping me up to date or at least notifying me each time the deal passed a milestone. I entrusted him with one of my precious clients, and he let me down.

By blowing off a referral, the young sales rep missed out on a golden opportunity, because referrals are one of the most important tools we sales practitioners have in our toolboxes.

You want to know the quickest path to prospecting success?

Use referrals.

It’s getting harder and harder to cut through the clutter and reach influential decision makers. That’s why referrals have never been more valuable than they are today.

In an era when buyers are jealously protective of their time, a referral from a trusted source is your ticket to the show. The higher up a prospect is in a company, the more important referrals are.

Reaching busy decision makers is not the only reason you should ask past/current clients for referrals.  By asking for business leads, you could find out about prospects who otherwise would remain hidden from your view.  There are essentially thousands of prospective clients out there who you do not yet know and who have not heard of you.  A referral is your ice breaker, a chance to know someone who could someday become one of your best clients.

Additionally, referrals can get prospects thinking about making a change even when the thought of changing hadn’t previously entered their minds.

For example, let’s say there’s a client who is marginally happy with their current vendor.  They’re happy enough that they don’t feel compelled to look around but they’re not so satisfied that they wouldn’t consider an unexpected solicitation from someone who referred you.  A referral could be just enough of a catalyst to make them consider a new provider. Referrals are catalysts.

Have No Fear

Despite the power of referrals, some sales professionals are hesitant to ask their current/past clients.  Perhaps they are worried the request will be an unwanted interruption in the client’s busy day.  Perhaps they’re worried they didn’t do a good enough job for the client.  Perhaps they fear “going to the well one too many times” — they already took time from the client when doing the deal, so they feel guilty taking more of the client’s time now.

If you have done a good job of serving the client while at the same time building trust, have no fear or hesitation asking for a referral.  In fact, you could make the argument that the referral actually strengthens your relationship with them.  It’s kind of flattering when a vendor wants me to make referrals on their behalf.  It shows me that I was an important and prestigious client.

Asking for a referral puts you and the client on the “same team” and creates more of a friendship between the two of you.  Furthermore, saying nice things about you to others reinforces and reminds your client why you’re so awesome.

Some clients might actually be a bit offended if you don’t ask for a referral. I once had a client with whom I worked a long time and built a nice friendship. After a couple years, I finally asked for a referral and testimonial.  Her response?  “I was wondering why you never asked me for that!”

Who Should You Ask for Referrals?

  • A person whose name, title and profile make you look impressive
  • Someone who will say great things about you
  • Someone who is very pleased with your product or service
  • Someone with whom you have mutual trust
  • Someone who has a large number of valuable contacts

When Should You Ask?

There’s no set time in the sales process when you are supposed to ask for a referral. That said, it’s probably best right after you have done a great job and your client is basking in your good work. Some sales pros are hesitant to ask a client from long ago.  Don’t fret if time has gone by.

Simply call and say something reminded you of them and how much you enjoyed working with them.  Then ask for a referral.

Referral Process

If prospects agree to give you referral, the best option is to have the referrer connect you directly They could make a coffee or lunch appointment for the three of you or perhaps send an email introducing you (“There’s someone you NEED to meet!”). If this isn’t an option, perhaps the referral giver could arrange a three-way phone call.

The second-best option is for the referral giver to send an email or make a phone call letting the targeted person know you’ll be calling and why they should talk to you.

If the referral giver isn’t willing to do either of the first two options, you will have to initiate the contact with the targeted person mentioning the referral giver’s name.  Before making this call, make sure you have referral giver’s blessing to go ahead and make the call.

Before you talk to referred targets, learn all you can by asking the referral giver about them and by researching them online.

Keep the referral giver informed throughout the sales process. It’s simply a matter of courtesy and is especially important if the referral giver is due a commission or referral fee.

Always be grateful for any referrals you receive. When clients allow you to use their names to seek business from their cherished contacts, they are putting their reputations on the line just to help you.  That means you have an obligation to treat those referrals with the utmost care and respect.  Caring for referrals is a sacred trust in the sales world, so take your job seriously.

New Prospecting Masterclass Will Help You

If you want to get your prospects’ attention, you need compelling language that convinces them you bring relevant value.  That’s what my prospecting masterclass is all about.

If your sales team is not prospecting as effectively as it could, schedule this in-depth masterclass for your office.  It can be a half- or full-day program.  Either way, it will give the sales reps in your company actual language they can use to turn cold prospects into paying clients.

Click HERE for an outline of this interactive prospecting workshop!

  Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

Why Sales Reps Hate Telephone Prospecting and How to Fix It

By Jeff Beals

Earlier this week I made a critical error – I picked up the phone even though I didn’t recognize the number.  It was actually a live human, and he had this to say:

“Good morning, Jeff. I represent an overseas SEO and web-development company. We have a team of 70+ IT professionals and we aim to deliver high-quality services at cost-effective prices and without compromising on client satisfaction. We can work for half the cost of our U.S.-based competitors. Our team handled over 400 SEO projects and obtained 15,000 manually built links in the past year.  I know you’re busy, but I’d love to sit down with you in the next week or two to go over our package and pricing.”

The caller got through that entire text before taking a breath.  I sat there listening partly out of fascination that he could talk so fast and partly because I was amazed that people still start phone conversations that way.  The caller chose the worst possible start to a phone call.  His message

It reminded me of my high school days in the 1980s, when I worked as an outbound telemarketing sales rep.  For five hours each evening, I would call people when they didn’t want to hear from me (usually during dinner) and tried to sell them something they didn’t need.

We telemarketers had a very sophisticated selling strategy:  If you talked fast enough, you might get through your whole script before they hung up on you.  And we had a second strategy: If you barfed up enough features and benefits, the prospect might be so dazzled, they’d buy the crappy service you were peddling.

There’s a reason why most sales reps don’t enjoy telephone prospecting.  They don’t do it properly.  When you sound like a cheesy salesperson, your prospects will do whatever is necessary to get off the phone as quickly as possible.  Here are four things you can do to make telephone prospecting more effective for you:

1. Research your prospects before calling – I try to take an hour or so on Sunday evening each week to do background research on the prospects I plan to call that week.  I look at their personal career paths, study their company and research their industry.  I look for things that are unique about them and try to determine what they value.

2. Lead with value – When you do call the prospect, start the conversation with issues and concerns that the prospect likely has.  You know this because of your pre-call research.

3. Ask questions and listen intently – If the prospect is amenable to chatting, ask probing questions that reveal the prospect’s problems and concerns, the things they value and care about.

4. Focus on outcomes, not features and benefits – Once you know what the prospect values and cares about, only talk about the ways you can satisfy that value specifically and exactly.  When you do talk about your products and services, focus on the outcomes you provide rather than features and benefits.

Would you like to see a couple good ways to start a prospecting call?

Let’s say I sell copier machines, and I call the office manager of an accounting firm:

“In my work with other accounting firms, I have found that office managers like you hate three things about copiers: one-sided lease agreements, ridiculously complicated machines and unresponsive repair techs.  We have a new membership program specifically built from an office manager’s point of view.  Twenty-five of my clients have switched so far. I’d be happy share what this means to you.”

Now, let’s say I’m a Realtor, and I call a homeowner I’d like to represent:

“We’re finding three things holding back homeowners who would like to move to a new house: What if my current house sells too fast; what if the new house is too expensive and what if we have to settle for a house that doesn’t measure up?  Fortunately, I have some ideas that will get rid of those worries for you.”

In both the examples above, the caller catches the prospect’s attention with a compelling statement and then focuses on things he or she believes the prospect cares about.  How does the caller know what the prospect cares about?  Because the caller is an expert in the field and researched the prospect before calling!

How can you tweak your telephone prospecting messages so that they are more compelling and value-based?

Prospecting Help

If you want to get your prospects’ attention, you need compelling language that convinces them you bring relevant value.  That’s what my prospecting masterclass is all about.

If your sales team is not prospecting as effectively as it could, schedule this in-depth masterclass for your office.  It can be a half- or full-day program.  Either way, it will give the sales reps in your company actual language they can use to turn cold prospects into paying clients.

Click HERE for an outline of this interactive prospecting workshop!

How Do You Know If a Prospect Is Too Good to Be True?

By Jeff Beals

I’ll never forget that summer afternoon in 2001 when a very unique man walked into the commercial real estate office where I worked.

He had just moved to my city from a different part of the country, and he brought some impressive ideas with him. He wanted to interview our real estate company in order to have us represent him as he developed property and built major buildings in his new city. His ideas were downright grandiose, and he assured us he had access to unlimited capital. He told captivating stories and dropped big names.

Though I was a relatively inexperienced real estate broker at the time, an alarm went off in my head. This guy sounded too good to be true. My boss was equally skeptical. Our initial thought was to just laugh about the meeting and not waste our time with the guy.  But there was something that kept pulling us back. Something about the guy seemed genuine, so we decided to do a little background research on him.

For the most part, his stories actually checked out. We learned he had been involved in some significant real estate deals if not as big as what he was proposing to us. We found evidence that he had done work with a couple of the big names he mentioned. A banking reference he gave us was legitimate. We learned that a couple other local companies had signed on to work with him including a respected business consultant and a major architecture firm.

While it still seemed too good to be true, we decided to move forward with this guy at least for a while.

Though we were suspicious he could accomplish his plans, a couple questions in the back of our minds kept haunting us: What if he is legitimate and we pass up the opportunity? What if we walk away and one of our competitors ends up doing this once-in-a-career project with him?

As we proceeded, this man ended up demanding an extraordinary amount of my time, which eventually made me feel suspicious again. But after a while, we came to a moment of truth, a chance for him to prove himself. The client decided to make an offer on a prominent piece of real estate. We wrote up the contract, and he produced a sizable cashier’s check for the earnest deposit.  Finally, this strange man with the fanciful ideas put up some real cash and signed a purchase agreement!

During the due diligence period following that contract, the client took even more of our time, but instead of focusing on the matter at hand – closing this deal – he was focused on other, bigger properties he wanted.  His head was in the clouds. I became more and more frustrated, because the guy wouldn’t focus on first-things-first. How could we conquer the local real estate market if he couldn’t even focus long enough to close the first deal?!!?

As I pushed him, his personality changed. He got confrontational and combative. It was frankly kind of disturbing. Some of his other advisers (architect, lender, attorney, etc.) were noticing the same thing.

At the last minute, he came up with a crazy excuse and killed the deal just as the due diligence period was about to expire. Many people had worked long and hard for absolutely nothing.

What did the mysterious client do next?

He asked us all to start working on another property he claimed to want.  This one was even bigger and the plans he had for it were even more spectacular.

That’s when I finally had enough. My real estate firm cut ties with him.  Some of the other companies that had been working him followed suit.

That was 17 years ago. The would-be, life-changing client never ended up purchasing or developing a single, solitary property in my city. He moved away many years ago and invested in (I’m not making this up)a chain of stripper bars. I haven’t heard from him at all in that time. Just out of curiosity, I have Googled him a few times over the years and very little shows up.

I can remember him once telling me that he preferred “to fly under the radar.”  I’ve heard that from other prospective clients and vendors over the years. Without exception, every person who has said those words to me has turned out to be illegitimate in some way.  If you ever want me to run away from you and never ask to do business with you ever again, simply tell me you like “to fly under the radar”

Other than avoiding people who fly under the radar, what did I learn from this time-sucking client?

Another thing to look for when qualifying prospects!

I had always thought qualification was about discovering their motives and determining their ability to perform financially.  In reality, qualification is about more than that. Some people are dreamers. Some people are wannabes.  Perhaps for some psychological reason I don’t understand, some people want to play fantasy business instead of accomplishing real things.

If you are willing to allow them, people will happily usurp your time even for things that don’t necessarily make sense for you.  I try to remind myself that the qualification process is all about elimination. We need to eliminate posers, pretenders and usurpers before they can steal your most precious resource: time.

I’m glad the strange man came into my professional life all those years ago. The time I wasted with him back then turned out to be quite valuable. I’m much more efficient today and my eyes are more keenly aware because of what I learned back then.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“In the three months since Jeff Beals became my sales coach, I have signed over 20 new, top-tier clients and have positioned myself among the top three sales producers in my company nationwide. Jeff has helped me create a beneficial success plan and ensures, through an accountability process, that I’m actively accomplishing my goals. Not only is Jeff an incredible coach, he’s a true friend, mentor and wonderful human being.” – Carter Green, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Stratus Building Solutions, Oklahoma City, OK

(402) 637-9300

What Does Sales-Rep Job Hopping Mean to You?

By Jeff Beals

Workers in the United States are choosing to leave their jobs at the fastest rate since the internet boom 17 years ago, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, and it’s paying off for them in the form of bigger paychecks and more satisfying work.

The Labor Department reported that 3.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April, near a 2001 internet-fueled peak and twice the 1.7 million who were laid off from jobs in April.  The job-hopping phenomenon is not limited to certain industries, instead occurring across the economy.  Workers are buoyed by a strong economy and the lowest unemployment rate in years.

As you might imagine, young people are switching more than older employees.  Approximately 6.5 percent of workers under age 35 changed jobs in the first quarter of last year, according to the article, versus 3.1 percent of those ages 35 to 54.

What does this dynamic employment market mean to you?

If you’re an employee, it means that you may have more choices now than at any other point in your career, perhaps ever.  But you now have the “curse of choices:” some employees may agonize over leaving a comfortable or safe job versus chasing a new opportunity that pays more and offers more enjoyment/career satisfaction.

If you’re looking to hire or retain talent, your job is getting harder, and it’s probably going to get worse in the future.  There is growing evidence that artificial intelligence (AI) is actually creating more jobs than it kills thanks to the massive productivity gains it causes.

So how do business leaders make sure they have enough talent in a talent-scarce environment where workers are becoming more restless?

First and foremost, you need to create a motivational culture that people don’t want to leave. Second, compensation needs to be competitive.  Third, you need to recruit perpetually.  Recruiting talent is the lifeblood of a company.  Even when you’re “full up,” you need to keep recruiting at least a little because personnel situations can change fast.

This is especially true if you lead a sales team.  More than 26 percent of sales jobs are expected to turn over this year.  Even during down economies, it’s difficult to find talented, motivated sales people who are willing to work on commission.

Here are a few ideas to help you find the sales talent you need:

  1. Look for a vendor who is good at selling. That talented salesperson who sells things to your company might enjoy becoming a part of your company.
  2. The same thing goes for a client.  Obviously, you have to be very careful about this, but if the situation is right, there might be a sales rep from one of your client companies that might be a good fit for you.
  3. You can post ads online, but for many companies in many industries, this turns out to be a waste of time and money.
  4. Engage a recruiting firm?  Some companies have a lot of success with this.  Other companies prefer to bird-dog for sales reps on their own.
  5. Good, old-fashioned networking is the best way to bird-dog for reps.  The key is to network efficiently and with the end goal in mind.  Only network at events and in places that are target rich.  Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
  6. Seek referrals from your current reps.  Ask your reps, “Who would you like to work with?”  Some companies give incentives to reps who recruit people.
  7. Social media is critically important. You most likely won’t directly fill vacant sales jobs solely through social media, but it will help.  Social media builds brand familiarity and credibility.

This is important:  If you’re a sales leader, be sure to sign up for my webinar, “How to Recruit Rockstar Sales Reps,” which will take place on Thursday, August 16th at 10:00 a.m. Central Time.

We’ll share with you:

  • The simple, right-in-front-of-you places you can find top-shelf sales reps
  • How to get prospective sales reps excited about your company’s culture and growth opportunities
  • How to differentiate yourself from all the other companies competing for the best talent

It’s only $49, and each attendee will receive the “Recruiting Blueprint,” a printable resource which provides you with a step-by-step process that will help you win the sales-rep recruiting race!

Click here to register!

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300

 

What Do Sales Reps Fear the Most?

By Jeff Beals

Which part of the sales process is most difficult for you?  Which part intimidates you?

Hubspot.com set out to determine which part of the sales process causes reps to struggle the most, and the survey results were quite interesting:

Prospecting 42%

Closing 36%

Qualifying 22%

That is the exact order I would have predicted before I even read the study.  The only thing that surprised me was that prospecting didn’t have an even higher percentage.

When speaking to sales reps, I sometimes like to conduct an unscientific survey of the audience.  With a show of hands, I ask them which part of the process is their least favorite.  “Prospecting,” usually gets 60 to 70 percent of the votes.

Why is prospecting more intimidating and less enjoyed than other parts of the sales process?

Well, to start, let’s look at the definition of prospecting:

“Prospecting is the art of interrupting someone when they don’t expect to hear from you in order to provide them with something they need that they might not yet know.”

The key word in that definition of “interrupting.”  Most people are uncomfortable interrupting someone especially when it’s a stranger who is not expecting to hear from you.

And we know that when you interrupt someone, you are risking rejection, one of humanity’s biggest phobias.  If you research, “top 10 phobias,” the fear of rejection pops up frequently.

Most people HATE being rejected.  As social beings, the avoidance of rejection is a powerful motivation.  It’s hard-wired into our DNA.  It’s a matter of survival, because people need other people to survive. That was especially important in prehistoric times when primitive humans banded together to raise food and protect themselves from external threats.  If you didn’t fit into the tribe, you were left on your own to fend off predators.

Even though we have evolved into sophisticated beings with technology at our fingertips and complicated social structures to protect us, it’s hard to shake our ancient traits.  While a fear of rejection helped us to survive 5,000 years ago, it can hinder us in today’s competitive business environment.

How can you overcome your natural predilection to avoid rejection at all costs and push forward as an effective prospector?

Envision success – Like an athlete preparing for a big game, you have a higher likelihood of succeeding if you picture yourself doing well in advance.

Keep it in perspective – It’s not the end of the world when you get rejected.  It may have meant life and death in primeval times, but in the 21st century, it’s just a speed bump.  You will live to fight another battle.

Externalize it – For most of us, it’s normal to take rejection personally, which means we internalize it.  Try to see the rejection as something outside of you, external to your life and your personality.  A sales rejection is NOT an indictment of your personality.

No self-fulfilling prophecies – Avoid a defeatist attitude.  To avoid being disappointed, some sales practitioners start to assume the prospect won’t pan out before even contacting him.  That can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, meaning you’ve lost before you even begin.

Build a big list – Make sure you have a large number of leads in your pipeline, so you’re not too dependent on any one lead or prospect.  Rejection hurts more when you don’t have any other prospects to take the rejector’s place.  Plus, too few leads make you desperate.

The right kind of leads – Study who you have been targeting in the past.  Is it really the right group of people?  Should you be targeting a different prospect profile?

Have a plan – Those sales reps who have a well-developed personal plan for prospecting tend to fear rejection less.  A good plan means you have a dedicated prospecting time and a step-by-step system you follow when engaging new cold prospects.

Persistence – Because most prospects are so busy, it is now taking about 9 attempts to get a cold prospect to return your call or email.  However, most sales reps give up after 2.5 attempts.  If you give up too soon, your pipeline will be too skinny, which makes you too dependent on too few leads.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300