Maintain Your Professional Image While Selling Your Services
By Lenann McGookey Gardner
thoracic (chest) surgeon, Aaron was used to working on hearts and
lungs. He’s a gifted surgeon, with a wonderful bedside manner,
impeccable skills, and true caring for his patients’ lives and
families. But the truth was, his case volume was down, and so too
was his income. What to do? Aaron was surprised to realize that he
had a sales problem.
medical community that deals with America’s epidemic of heart
disease, the cardiologist is king. When surgery is indicated, the
cardiologist recommends a surgeon, and most patients, firmly bonded
to the cardiologist, accept those recommendations. Aaron needed
better relationships with cardiologists who could appreciate his
skills and special talents. And a program of targeting specific
cardiologists, and systematically and methodically building
relationships with them, improved his income.
about you? You may not cut open people’s chests for a living … but
if you’re a consultant, or an accountant, or an attorney, or a
banker, or any of a variety of professions that rely on referrals,
could you benefit from a sales approach like Aaron’s? Here are 10
tips to help you improve referrals without damaging your
1. Know who you’d like to have sending business your way.
A Prospect List is not a list of organizations; it’s a list of human
beings who could send clients to you, but are not currently doing
so. Do you have such a list? There is data saying that writing up
a list of those with whom you would like to be doing business, and
reading the list daily, increases the likelihood that you will
actually establish those relationships!
2. Work your Prospect List. Don’t let a single week go
by without completing a minimum of two activities related to your
Prospect List. Sometimes you can attend a meeting that is likely to
put you face-to-face with targeted prospects; failing that, you may
have to send an article of interest, and suggest an in-person
meeting to discuss matters of mutual concern. Aaron chose to
suggest coffee with the cardiologists he encountered when doing his
rounds at the hospital with which he was affiliated.
3. When you speak with your prospects, use the word “you”
often, and the word “I” (or “we”) seldom. Making the
conversation more about your prospect and less about you will make
conversations longer – perhaps long enough for trust to develop.
4. Begin every conversation with a prospect by adopting a
“Clean Heart Position” – a sincere desire to see your prospects
get what they want, whether or not they get it from you. Try to
understand their practices/businesses, and what they’re trying to
accomplish; ask questions about that rather than turning the
discussion to the fact that you want them to refer people to you.
Once you feel you understand their objectives for their
practices/businesses, restate their objectives, and be sure that the
prospect agrees that you understand. If they do agree, then you can
introduce the notion that you may be able to assist them in
achieving those objectives, if you legitimately feel that you can.
5. At all stages of the process of cultivating referrals,
be sure you are focused on the prospect, rather than on your
objectives, your message, or your agenda. The way to make
meaningful connections is to understand what your prospect is trying
to achieve, and the extent to which he or she has pain that you may
be able to alleviate.
example, if you are an accountant seeking referrals from attorneys,
you would want to focus a great deal on an attorney sharing with you
that she has just had a bad experience referring one of her valued
clients to an accountant who failed to return phone calls, thus
angering the attorney’s client. If that’s the pain, then talk about
that: “Oh no! The accountant you referred your client to didn’t
even bother to return your client’s calls?
"Gee, that can't reflect well on you!
Unbelievable!" Let the prospect know that you heard, and that you
understand how this behavior works against what he's trying to
achieve, rather than talking about yourself and saying
something like, “Well, I always return my calls before sundown.” Of
course, if you are asked your own protocol for returning calls,
answer the question.
6. Keep your voice at the same volume level, and speak at
the same pace as your prospect does, to build rapport. Research
from Dr. Genie Laborde suggests that these may be the most powerful
things you can do to help others to like you, quickly!
7. Express continued interest in your prospect. As Brian
Tracy has said, listen as if he could speak for the next eight
years, and you would still be here, listening attentively – rather
than trying to make your point.
8. When speaking with prospects, make an effort to avoid
using words that are rooted in the word “no”, such as not,
won’t, can’t, don’t or aren’t. There’s evidence that such
negativity will drive prospects away from you.
9. If the conversation gets to the possibility of working
together, express enthusiasm for that, without going overboard
or losing your professional demeanor.
10. Don’t forget the people who are currently sending you
referrals. In addition to conveying your thanks after every
referral, have a regular program of base-touching with them, and put
it into your scheduling program so you’re reminded when to make the
calls monthly, quarterly, or, at minimum, twice a year. And be sure
to send business to them whenever you can – the best referral
relationships are two-way!
Developing relationships with those who can refer others to you is
possible, but it requires thought about whom you’d like to
serve as referral sources – and action to cultivate these
relationships. Follow these principles, and develop the referral
sources who will support your organization’s growth for years to
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Lenann McGookey Gardner.
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