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MILLION DOLLAR REFERRALS
THE SECRETS TO BUILDING A PERPETUAL CLIENT LIST TO GENERATE A SEVEN-FIGURE INCOME
By ALAN WEISS
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012Alan Weiss
All rights reserved.
BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS ARE A PROCESS, NOT AN EVENT
HOW TO CREATE LONG-TERM CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A RELATIONSHIP BUSINESS
Referrals are recommendations to hire you. This concludes my prepared remark. Questions?
All right, you purchased a 200+-page book, so I'll provide some details. But let's not stray from the basic premise. Every day, people are providing advice, counsel, recommendations, suggestions, and urgings for others to follow in securing personal and professional products and services. If you're like most of us, you've sent people to your attorney, your dentist, your accountant, your auto mechanic, your favorite Internet product site, your favorite vacation property, and so forth. And you've listened to others' similar advice.
Business relationships are a process, not an event. That is, they are an ongoing movie, not a static snapshot. The longer you maintain productive and valuable business relationships, the longer you will be the beneficiary of the referrals that can emanate from that source.
Clients have more value than "merely" the fee they pay you! If you view client relationships as long-term and worth maintaining, you can derive
Referrals. The client makes ongoing recommendations to third parties to contact you for projects and engagements.
References. The client serves as a source of credibility and endorsement when you refer prospects to him.
Testimonials. The client provides an "evergreen" endorsement that you can use in print or video on your website and within your marketing materials.
Repeat business. If you are always topical and "on the radar screen," you may have the inside track on future business.
Independent credibility. Recognizable names on your client list add to your credibility and legitimacy.
Those firms that merely "process" clients through their systems are losing longer-term value from those clients and customers. Those that "harangue" clients with constant offers and requests risk driving their goodwill away. Thus, you must reach an intelligent, planned relationship with clients that creates the leverage needed for expanded future business and the reciprocity that the client finds of value in doing so.
In Figure 1.1, you can see that I consider relationships to be as important as products and services. Relationships are based on
Trust: Do you live up to your promises and claims?
Value: Do you demonstrably improve the client's condition?
Responsiveness: Are you accessible, and do you respond rapidly?
Credibility: Does the client feel it's impressive to be partnering with you?
Reciprocity: Do you recommend people to the client where appropriate?
Professionalism: Are you on time and on deadline?
Innovation: Are you leading-edge, state-of-the-art?
Reputation: Are you seen by others as being the best of the best?
The more strong and powerful these factors are, the more you move toward "breakthrough" in Figure 1.1. The more you create and maintain breakthrough relationships, the more you will receive unsolicited referrals from your clients.
Of course, there are other sources of referrals, beyond clients. They include friends, professional associates, colleagues, the media, and so forth. However, clients are the most powerful source, since they have actually invested in you, and they are the most credible sources for others who want to invest in you.
A fascinating aspect, however, is that powerful word of mouth creates referrals from people who have never been your clients, but who want to appear to be "in the know" and knowledgeable by having the intelligence to recommend you!
A relationship business is possible with almost any type of organization. It isn't a matter of content, but rather a matter of intent.
Many auto dealers provide a gift or an incentive for a customer who recommends a new customer. We once had a dentist who sent my wife a rose for every person she recommended. I routinely provide a discounted or free seat in one of my workshops for people who bring others to the event. Internet sites often provide coupons and discounts for others.
The nature of a strong relationship business that engenders referrals usually requires
1. Immediate value. I'm so impressed that I want others whom I respect to know of your value. Note that this isn't time-dependent, and I don't have to have been using your services for a long time. This is usually promoted through rapid responsiveness, a pragmatic product or service that can be used immediately, and short-term gratification.
2. Universality. The wider and more flexible the applicability of your value, the easier it is for me to find people to whom to recommend it. Otherwise, if I have to wait for the "right circumstances," I'll tend to forget about it.
3. Requests for referrals. We'll discuss the exact language later, but it's important for you to let me know that you need and seek referrals. A doctor I visited once had a tiny sign in the lobby saying, "We appreciate your referrals." It would have been better if he had mentioned that to his patients, especially those who were delighted with his advice and regimens.
4. Flexibility and depth. Ironically, some people who love you won't tend to give you referrals if they suspect that either you won't have time for them or you can't handle any more work. You need to make it clear that you have the resources to handle more business and that your current client will always be a priority for you.
The first step in creating Million Dollar Referrals is to appreciate that they originate in trusting relationships with current and past clients. You must regard those relationships with the same planning and priorities you provide for your products and services.
Referrals are simply another powerful source of current and future revenues.
INITIAL LANGUAGE AND BEHAVIORS TO STIMULATE LEVERAGE
The potential for referral business begins with initial meetings. We'll focus for the moment on business relationships, since clients who partner with you and benefit from the value of your work are your most important referral sources of all.
Here are my suggestions for language to use in four stages of a client relationship:
New Clients, Project Launching
"As we move forward, it's common for me to request referrals from my client partners, since that is the source of most of my business. I hope you'll consider agreeing to do that when the time is right."
"Referrals are the 'coinage of my realm' in this business, and I'm going to work very hard to maximize your project's outcomes so that you'll be very comfortable in providing them at the right point."
"It's very early, but my experience is that it's not uncommon for my clients to want to share their results with others. I want to assure you that when you provide referrals, and if I accept their business, you will always have my highest priority, and I would never endanger that."
"Since you and I actually met through a referral, you know how effective that can be for others for whom we both believe I may be a good 'fit.' I'm happy to discuss that with you if you are ever questioned about our work together."
Excerpted from MILLION DOLLAR REFERRALS by ALAN WEISS. Copyright © 2012 by Alan Weiss. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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