After working with thousands of businesses over the past twenty-five years, I've learned a lot (often the hard way) and seen some great things. A big issue has been problem areas around growing sales and ultimately growing revenues and profits for many businesses.
One of the biggest areas of potential for a professional seller is in building much stronger alliance relationships with those who can recommend you in your community. Community is where you are online, where your market niche is, or your geographic area - depending on the business that you are in. Endorsements from others are so much stronger than your own endorsement -- heck, you get paid to say good things about yourself. Others don't. The value in having business acquaintances and what we call "master alliance builders" in your network is H-U-G-E. By having this team in place it can totally keep you from using another option to growing business -- calling on "cold" contacts, with an aggressive prospecting strategy. Even professional sellers have some call reluctance around this - and for good reason - it is the much slower road to success. In 2012, I'd say that any calling without pre-research or recommendations is totally out-of-date and wrong.
People buy from those they know and trust - and also quite often from those they like. It is a foundational element in professional selling. If someone YOU trust recommends to you that you contact a business for a product or service you are looking for, doesn't that recommended company have some immediate credibility, since they were referred by someone you already know and trust?
But how to do it? It is one thing to tell others what to do, and quite another to tell them how to incorporate it into their already busy work plan. Here are some quick ideas:
- Track your prospective customers in a CRM (customer relationship management) program or database or pipeline tool. This is so easy with the advent of web-based pipeline tools that are very inexpensive and simple to use.
- Enter and track your alliance partners - these are the people who don't do what you do, but they may do an add-on to what you do, or they serve the same market. They may just be really energized by your service and support and want to refer others to you. Record all of these people - these, "trusted partners" and tag the record to denote that they are an alliance partner. Work to have at least 20, and as many as 100
- Create a plan to "touch" these contacts on a regular basis - it doesn't need to be frequent, but it does need to be consistent. Think of a quarterly newsletter just for alliance partners, or scheduling an in-person or virtual coffee with three of them each month. Whatever works for you - keep it easy and sensible, but DO KEEP IN CONTACT.
- When you are in contact with your referral partners, ask them what they need - what are they looking for, and do they have new products or services that you should know about? You are a potential referrer for them - and they must know this. Remind them that you will do whatever you can to help generate more interest for them. It is the old "giver's gain" formula. Give first - help your colleague's business, and that in turn will help yours. The kicker is that as you help others, help for you can come from other sources. It is uncanny - and it works.
- Be interesting, and be someone that others enjoy talking to. Have value to offer them. Look always to talk with interesting people.
If you put some minimal but consistent effort into creating a group of alliance partner relationships into place, AND if you have a clear message of what you offer that adds value - you will see more referral business due to your partners' understanding what you do, and acting as "feet on the street" for you. Some small businesses and niche products have whole teams of people who regularly refer others their way. Just look at some of the top brands, and the "brand ambassadors" who are users of the product. They create videos, endorse online, and champion on behalf of a brand. Make it easy for your team of supporters, and easy for others to do business with you.
This system will enable you to dramatically increase the number of referral prospects your way, and it will help you refer others to your alliance partners too. When customers get good value from you or your referral partners, it is WIN-WIN-WIN.
(Updated from an original post by me at Top Sales World called Winning Teammates.)
Lori Richardson speaks, writes, trains, and mentors companies on ideas that grow revenues which are simple but elegantly implemented. Follow the Score More Sales sales blog for easy tips and strategies.