Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to Generate a Flood of Leads with Referrals

Jim Bear, Referral Expert
Here's a transcript of a fantastic phone interview I did with referral expert, Jim Bear.

Read it and reap big benefits for your business ...

Kevin Donlin: I am on the phone with a good friend, Mr. Jim Bear. Jim and I are going to spend a few minutes talking about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s how to develop referral partnerships that deliver streams of ongoing, dependable revenue for your business.

We all like referrals. We want to get more referrals, but we stumble over how to get referrals. I have Jim Bear on the phone to come to our rescue.

So, Jim, welcome and tell folks why you are qualified to speak on the topic of referrals today? What’s your background and experience?

Jim Bear: I think I start off by saying I’m an expert in this area knowing that I don’t know everything about this topic, but I have learned a tremendous amount. I have seen the successes of what I’ve learned. I think I started this out of frustration because I always wanted to be in that wonderful place where you’re getting referrals on a regular basis.

I never knew how to get referrals. It was my quest. It was my longing to do it. It was probably I’d say 17 years in the making of wanting to figure this out. Finally, I stumbled across this system. I find that it’s pretty easy once you understand the language, the approach, and how to do it.

You can get people calling you up going, “Hey, I have another referral for you. Hey, I have another referral for you.” It’s obviously a wonderful spot to be.

Kevin: Excellent. Let’s talk about how to get there. With all of your experience, you’ve seen a lot. What are some typical mistakes you see business owners making when they’re trying to go after referrals using what they’ve learned or what they think is going to work?

Jim: I think the biggest mistake I see out there right now is people have commission breath.

Kevin: Explain that, if you could!

Jim: Maybe you have a picture of someone in your mind right now. We get in front of our clients, and we turn our hands out and go, “Do you have a referral for me?” You get in their body space. It’s almost like, “You owe me a referral.” People go, “Get away, ooh, I’m smelling the commission breath on you.”

Understanding how to set the stage and build the relationship before you ask for that referral is so important.

Kevin: Excellent. I think I get commission breath any time I go to most networking mixers. I’ve been a member of several chambers of commerce. They’re good in many respects but whether it’s an event sponsored by them or other places, I dread going because you run into those people, the commission breath.

Jim: They’re usually the ones that hand cards out really quick.

Kevin: It’s like they’re carpet bombing the room with business cards. Not helpful. Anything else on top of commission breath that people make mistakes?

Jim: They don’t know what they want. A lot of people will go in there and say, “I’ll take anything. I’m looking for anybody or somebody.” If I’m at an event trying to help people network or I’m in a networking group, I listen to these people when they say they want a referral. I ask them, “What does a good referral look like for you?” They go, “Anybody.” What I do is look in my database under A. I’m looking for “anybody.” They’re missing, absolutely every time.

Understanding what it is that you’re looking for, and that’s what we teach when I go out and speak a lot. That’s usually my first step with people is to ask, "What is it that you want?" Let’s identify that first so we can now enter a room with confidence, knowing what you want and understand what profession is going to be able to find that client for you on a regular basis.

Kevin: Wouldn’t you agree most people don’t get to that stage in their thinking when they can define who they want? A, they just don’t want to think. B, they don’t want to say no to any segment of the population. It seems that those are two barriers.

Jim: I think you’re right because if they say no to that, they’re really saying no to revenue.

Kevin: Potentially in their mind.

Jim: Yeah, in their mind. I had to overcome this myself. For many years, I was an investment advisor. I was licensed to do so many things. I wanted it all. I tried to hog all those categories. Yeah, I could do it all but what I realized was I was never really an expert in all of it.

I was good maybe at one, maybe two segments but the rest of it, if someone said, “Hey, I’d like you to pull a quote together for some long term care insurance,” I’d have to go, “Let’s get back together in four weeks,” because it would take me time to get back up to speed and make sure I was making the right recommendations.

After awhile, I realized that’s just a liability. I needed to hone in on what I was doing. When I finally did that, my business exploded because I was an expert. As they say, people will come for miles to watch you burn when you’re on fire.

I also look at the Mayo Clinic, which is a big clinic in Minnesota. People travel from all over the world to come to Mayo Clinic. It’s not an easy spot to get to. You got to fly into Minneapolis. You have to get some ground transportation down there. But they are the experts at what they do. People will travel to do that. I’m sure they do very well financially because they are the expert. That’s what I want to teach people to be is the expert. Really, what is it that you do 70% of the time? Focus on that and grow that to 100% of what you do, and you will make more money doing that.

Kevin: Terrific. Two ideas here, we have the commission breath problem and people don’t know what they want. Let’s talk about how you help people overcome these mistakes. Let’s start with commission breath. How do you help people overcome that major faux pas in networking?

Jim: I help people get over that faux pas by shifting their focus from a hunter to a farmer. A hunter has usually their bow and arrow or their gun in their hands, and they’re looking for anything that’s going to move, they’re going to shoot it, and probably eat it.

Whereas the farmer starts the process, “Well, I’m going to harvest something in the fall so I better start in the spring getting my seeds in the ground, and probably even start sooner than that,” I’m not a farmer. They probably get their seeds in the ground.

They’ll water it, weed it, make sure they get enough moisture, and all that they do for that. It’s a lengthy process until they get the harvest. When they harvest the food, they’re never going to eat all the harvest. In fact, they’re growing food for people that they don’t even know and probably will never ever meet.

In networking, if we have that same picture in our mind, I’m planting seeds today, I’m building relationships because I might be able to introduce this relationship to someone along the path. It will come back to help me and only bless me later on, when I’m a giver and looking for ways to help other people.

When you start to develop that lifestyle, I believe people come to you. They recognize what a giver you are and they want to help you. They want to do business with you because they see that. That’s not as predominate as it probably should be out there in the business community.

That giving piece of it, learning to be a farmer instead of a hunter will help tremendously get more referrals.

Kevin: That’s terrific. I think that’s a major mind shift for most people who just stampede and want to leave every networking event or every one-on-one meeting with a purchase order. Not going to happen. So your idea is outstanding -- changing the mentality to becoming a farmer from being a hunter.

What about for people who don’t know what they want when they’re looking for referrals? What do you say to those people to help them?

Jim: Sometimes, that outside perspective can pull it out of people. That’s what I do when I present is we spend a portion of our time talking about who is your ideal client. You usually get, “Well, I have many ideal clients.” “That’s great, I appreciate that. Let’s just for fun zero in on the one client, that if you had the ability to clone them and every time you got a referral from someone, it was that situation all over again, just a different name.”

Get them thinking just a little more focused on that and expand off of that. That’s where we start. Maybe we’ll do that two, maybe three times to get a couple examples of what those clients are. Then we have some traction.

Maybe we’ve never slowed down enough to articulate what a good client looks like. Maybe when we did it one time, maybe we look at it now, it could be different. I remember the first time I did this exercise on myself. It was Ken. Ken was my ideal client. I loved, loved, loved the whole experience with Ken.

After awhile, I realized I met Larry and Sue. That was even a better experience so I changed my focus there. I bet if you were to ask me in six months, I might even change that name again because I’ve had better experiences and I know what I want.

Sometimes, we don’t know what we want but when we get into this and realize, “This is really want I want,” as I hear myself talk, “This is really what I want.”

Kevin: That’s important because people can change their profile of their ideal client. It’s not a lifetime commitment.

Jim: You’re absolutely right. You can change. It’s okay, we give you permission to change.

Kevin: I think a lot of people resist finding it’s called an avatar or an ideal client profile, defining who their ideal client is. They think they’re going to get roped in, boxed in, or what have you but you’re saying that you can have multiple ideal client profiles and you can change those profiles over time. Both of those are okay?

Jim: Absolutely, it is okay. You need to understand what the group of your clients look like. Focus on that. Know what you’re going after. Become an expert to that group and people will come from miles to come talk to you because you’re the expert.

Kevin: This is terrific stuff. Final question for you, if people get a chance, why should they come see you present these ideas live in person?

Jim: I think if they could come in and hear me speak live on this topic, I think you’re going to walk away with a clearer understanding of what it is you want. You’re going to come away with a clearer understanding of what profession would be a great profession to network with and will have a whole database of your ideal clients.

I do believe you will walk away with a referral because in our workshop, what I do is I make sure we pair up into groups of maybe two or three. We do some brainstorming. Usually what comes out of that is a referral or a meeting with this person to have a one-to-one to maybe get into their database a little more or maybe a really good referral partner that can send clients to them on a regular basis.

We usually get jump starting on this process of getting to the end result, a room full of your ideal clients.

Kevin: Also depending on the venue, I’ve seen you do this, you’ll brainstorm and draw up an actual referral partnership map for people. I don’t know if that’s the right term. It’s literally a road map.

Jim: It is. The person who might be listening to this right now, if they attend, they might be lucky enough to be picked for this exercise. We call it mapping as you described, referral partner mapping where we have you stand up in front of a room full of your peers.

We ask three very strategic questions and elicit some suggestions from the audience on what they think might be good referral partners for you. I’ll let you in on a little secret. We’ll ask them, “Do you have any names to go with those referral partner suggestions?”

They most likely thought of the name first. Then they may go, “Yeah, I know that.” Then I’ll ask, “Would you have any objections to introducing that name to this person?” Usually, they’ll go, “I’ll be fine with that.”

Then I say, if I see you have a little resistance or reluctance, “That just tells me you don’t know this person. Would you give this person an opportunity to get to know you and vise versa? Maybe something good will come out of that.”

Usually, they do. Usually, they meet. We jump start that relationship and get some referrals and/or referral partners starting to flow back and forth.

Kevin: That’s a big part of the value of seeing you talk about  this live is you have so many other minds in the room. You can’t imagine how many ideas you’re going to hear. You can’t fathom it because you’re going to have unlimited number of viewpoints yourself.

I’ve seen this over and over with you. You have 15, 20 people in the room. People get dozens of referral partnership ideas out of this because it’s that good.

The other thing, I don’t want to forget this, is that people need to ask themselves, “What’s one new client worth to you over their buying lifetime?”

If you sit down and do the math, just one client who stays with you for three years or five years, it’s typically thousands of dollars, depending on your business. Then, alright, what is one new client a week extra?

Jim: I was visiting with one the attendees of a workshop I was at. He was in the insurance industry working for Northwestern Mutual. We started to brainstorm a little bit on what I had just taught about.

He said, “I’m getting a little stuck on what a good referral partner is.” “You work in the arena of life insurance. That’s your ideal client, life insurance?” “Yeah.” “Do you do anything with the charitable giving?”
“Yeah, I have a few nonprofits that are near and dear to my heart.” “A great referral partner for you would be the planned giving department of that nonprofit because they’re going to receive life insurance policies as gifts and they have no idea if these policies are going to be enforced for a year, 20 years.

“You can audit these policies and tell them how long it’s going to be enforced so they can plan accordingly. Do you have any nonprofits that are near and dear to your heart that you’ve thought of?” He said, “Yeah.” He pulled out his phone and goes, “Yeah, I have this person right here. I better call them right now.”

I said, “You better call them right now.” Sure enough, he called them and set up for lunch. I have to check in with him to hear the other piece of that story but he was like, “It’s clear to me now. Now I see where you’re going with this.”

People many times come out of there with a plan of attack. They start getting on the phone and making appointments and getting business. That’s the fun part of what I do. I know it’s fun for you too when you’re up there speaking, to see the light bulb turn on and go, “Excuse me, I have work to do here. I got to do it quickly.”

Kevin: Jim, I think you’ve clarified a lot of things for a lot of people and there is going to be a lot of value. Anyone who gets a chance to come see you speak, I highly recommend it.

Resource: If you want to put an end to "feast-or-famine" syndrome in your business, the free Client Cloning Kit can help. Grab your copy here.

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