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Upgrade Your Referrals to Higher Quality
by Bill Cates

Whether you've asked for a referral or one has been volunteered, what do you usually do with it? Do you just say, "Thanks, I'll let you know what happens." Or do you linger a little longer to learn more about your new prospect?

I always advocate quality over quantity (though quantity is always a concern). Coming away from a meeting with 20 referrals all at once doesn't usually yield the kind of results you'd like, because the quality of the referral is usually not very good.

Two Reasons to Upgrade Your Referrals
When you take the time to upgrade your referrals, you benefit in two ways. First, you learn the type of things about your prospect that will help you have a better conversation with them. You'll demonstrate your relationship with their friends and you'll be able to build rapport more easily. Second, when your referral consists little more than a name and phone number, it doesn't feel like much more than a cold call. When you learn a lot about your new prospect, you'll feel more comfortable (maybe even excited) about the call and, therefore, you'll be more likely to call the prospect right away.

Don't Stop the Stream of Consciousness
There will be times when you ask for referrals and your referral source gets into what I call a "stream of consciousness." He or she will just rattle off a dozen names (or more). Sometimes, they'll grab their cell phone, PDA, or directory of association members, and feed you a ton of names.

When you catch a referral source in this flow, don't stop it. Write the names down and encourage more.

However, after the flood is over, go back and identify 3-5 people you can learn more about - in order to have a high-quality call with them. Tell your referral source you've learned through experience, that you'll be more successful in reaching, and eventually helping, these folks if you take a few at a time and learn as much as you can about them. Then tell your referral source, you'll call them in a week to learn more about the next "group."

Some Questions to Ask
Here are a few general questions you want to ask your referral source in the upgrading process.
  1. Why did you think of him first?
  2. Has he expressed any concerns in this area?
  3. Could you give me a sense of his personality?
  4. How do you think he'll react to his name coming up in conversation and me calling him?
  5. What's going on in his life right now that's important to him?
  6. What do you think is the best way to approach him, so that he'll be open to speaking and meeting with me? How can I pique his interest?
  7. Could you tell me something you like or admire about him?
The Golden Key to Rapport
I need to emphasize the importance and power of question number 7. Every time you get a referral, ask your source what they or admire about their friend (or colleague, or family member). Then use this in your opening conversation with your prospect. You will be absolutely amazed of how easily this opens the door for you.

Of course, you may have other questions specific to the situation that you will want to ask as well. Questions that may help you qualify them as appropriate to receive your call in the first place. Don't ever hesitate to make sure it's a good match. You don't need to be wasting your time calling people who don't fit your practice.

Time, Relationship, and Courage
There are three major factors that will allow you to have these types of conversations with your referral sources: 1) Time - manage your appointments well so that this conversation isn't rushed. Some producers like to schedule special meetings just for this purpose. 2) Relationship - the better the relationship you are able to establish with your clients, the more willing they will be to have this type of conversation with you. 3) Courage - if you're not in the habit of getting upgraded referrals, you will have to tap into your courage the first few times. Soon, it will become second nature.

Bill Cates is the author of Unlimited Referrals and the creator of the Unlimited Referrals® MarketingSystem. Bill works with producers and their companies to increase sales by attracting high-quality clients through a steady and predictable flow of referrals.

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