Filed Under:Your Practice, Sales Marketing

5 steps to leverage your referral process

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

Would you like to get referrals without even asking for them? Would you like to get referrals much sooner in your new client relationships? If so, then you need to think “process” over “products.” Simply selling a product or signing someone up will make you some money, but it’s unlikely to make you referable and create word of mouth buzz; at least not quickly in the new relationship.

A new economy?

In their book The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore examine what it takes to create word of mouth; what it takes to get your clients telling others about you. And to make their point, they use the metaphor of coffee beans. It goes something like this …

If I were to travel to South America and buy a pound of fresh picked coffee beans, it would cost me about 25 to 90 cents a pound. Coffee beans are a commodity. If I went into a grocery store here in the states, a pound of coffee grounds would cost me about $6.00 to $12.00 per pound, depending upon the brand and part of the country. Coffee grounds are a goods. If I purchased a cup of coffee in a diner, I would be paying about $90 per pound of beans. Brewed coffee is a service.  Then there’s Starbucks. Starbucks is an experience.

The premise behind Starbucks was to recreate the Italian coffee experience in North America. I think everyone will agree that Starbucks has been wildly successful. Commodities are interchangeable. Goods are tangible. Services are intangible. Most financial professionals play on the level of goods and services. You talk about the products you sell and you talk about the service you provide. There's nothing wrong with that. Those are important topics. However, you’re missing opportunities to create word of mouth if you don’t deal on the level of experiences. Experiences are memorable.  Experiences hit the emotional side of the brain, which helps with the buying decision and stimulates word of mouth and referrals.

Do you have a clearly defined process through which you put most of your new prospects and clients? Do you help them think big picture? Do you educate them? Do you get them thinking in ways they haven’t thought before? Do you question their assumptions? Do you lead them to make the right decisions and stop procrastinating? Do you use the same process virtually every time, or do you wing it?

Take a minute to think about the process you put your prospects and clients through from the minute you first contact them, all the way through to when they become a client and beyond. Are you creating “memorable experiences?” Are you giving your prospects and clients something to talk about?

Leveraging your process

Here are five steps that will insure you get the most out of your process, make your clients happy and generate word of mouth:

  1. Have a clearly defined process that is repeatable, and be clear on how your clients benefit.
  2. Name your process. When you name your process, it becomes yours. No one else has your process. Clients can only get this process from you. This is a way to distinguish yourself in this crowded marketplace.
  3. Illustrate your process with graphic design — on paper. This brings your process to life. It helps you explain your process to your clients and centers of influence.
  4. Communicate to prospects, clients and centers of influence why and how your process is beneficial. Get in the habit of talking about your process on a regular basis.
  5. Bring it to life with stories, anecdotes and case studies. Remember that you can’t give specific numbers of performance, but you talk about the peace of mind, goal setting, and other benefits of your work.

So, your mantra from now on is this: Process not products. As Howard Schultz could tell you, a good process will lead to many product sales, over and over again, throughout your relationships.

For more from Bill Cates, see:

How (and why) to target a niche market

7 ways to get the most out of networking events

How to face referral objections with confidence

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