September 6, 2011
One thing that differentiates great salespeople from the merely good ones is their ability to get referrals. How do they do it? Do people love them for their natural charisma? Or do they just have the brass to ask for referrals?
It may surprise you, but the key to getting referrals isn’t having the audacity to ask for them — it’s having the confidence to ask for them. You need to feel so confident in the quality of service you provide that your customers would practically be doing their acquaintances a disservice if they didn’t recommend you.
Are you that confident? Don’t worry; you can gain that level of confidence by developing three important skills.
First, be knowledgeable about your field. This almost goes without saying. You most likely are quite knowledgeable already. And if you aren’t, there are many educational programs available. Also, some people are just naturals at acquiring skills from experience, from others and diligent self-study — the Internet is a great resource in this regard.
Second, provide good customer service. Identify and anticipate client needs; be a good listener; make customers feel important and appreciated; under-promise, over-deliver; treat your employees well and nurture a climate of providing good customer service in your office
Third — and this works hand in hand with providing good customer service: be a good communicator of value. How many times a year do you contact your clients? Once a year with a premium notice? Maybe a little more often with a quarterly email newsletter? A good communicator uses a wide range of communication tools to reach out to his or her audience as often as 24 times a year. That’s right. Insurance industry experts used to recommend that agents contact clients at least seven times a year. Now in our over-stimulated world, Safeco, for instance, recommends “touching” clients 12 to 24 times per year.
To be an effective communicator, you need to send a newsletter — preferably monthly and preferably by postal mail if you want people to actually see it. You should also provide additional touches with:
- Calendars — what better way for people to see your name every day?
- Phone calls twice a year to check up on any changes the client may have overlooked, to deliver a personal message or even to thank the client for his/her business.
- Invitations to seminars or webinars hosted by you where you demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.
- Brochures and postcards focused on specific products you want to cross-sell.
- Client appreciation cards celebrating birthdays, holidays or a thank-you for a referral.
- Social networking with FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter— blog-posting is great for this.
When your communication strategy is firing on this many cylinders, you are sending a clear message to your clients that you truly care about them and want to nurture your relationship with them. This is the kind of environment that not only stimulates referrals, but engenders client loyalty and more cross-sales.
There is an interesting dynamic that occurs at this level of communication, where you just keep giving added value to clients and prospects. You feel a kind of generosity like the feeling you get when you give someone a gift. You might have received as much or more pleasure from giving someone a gift than they felt in receiving it. That’s confidence. You’re confident because you know you’re giving value.