When it comes to referrals – don’t be afraid to ask

In Sales by Eric Silverman

So you’ve found what I call your “owner advocate,” that decision maker on your client’s team who believes in you and what your products and services stand for. Now what? Why not tap your advocate for referrals to other potential clients within their professional and personal network? These are people who would gladly meet with you, if the introduction is made using your advocate’s name.

Owner advocates are typically very busy people, making it challenging to get face time with them in order to ask for referrals and introductions. In one instance, I was actually told multiple times by my owner advocate’s personal assistant that I wouldn’t be able to get on his schedule because of how “busy” he was.

It was time to get creative. After spending many weeks conducting the initial enhanced benefits enrollment at the corporate headquarters where he worked, I noticed that my owner advocate was always in early and that he was a huge fan of breakfast. So rather than try to pin him down in the middle of his busy day, I simply asked him if he’d let me treat him to an early morning breakfast to thank him for his advocacy during the enrollment. To my surprise, he gladly took me up on my offer, thus reminding me of a well-known pearl of wisdom from ‘The Great-One,’ Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

As we were finishing up breakfast I went ahead and asked for introductions and referrals to folks in his professional and personal universe. His response was very positive, but similar to every response to this request I’ve ever received: “Sounds great, but I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head right now… why don’t you give me a bunch of your cards and I’ll hand them out…” I know that most of us have heard that before and sadly, if you’re similar to most agents, your response was probably something like “Sounds great, I appreciate your help.” You then wait intently by the phone for months on end for the phone call that never comes.

Fortune favors the bold

But on that particular day, my response was different — what some might call pretty bold. I asked him if I could make it quicker and easier by simply going through his contact list – in essence doing his homework for him. I explained that I’d write down every contact that I believed would be a good fit, and then I’d of course run the list by him before prospecting with it. His response was better than I could have ever imagined. Not only did he say that was fine, but told me that his assistant could help me with anything I needed. I immediately drove back to his office with him and got to work jotting down every contact I could find.

By the way, when I emailed him my newly created prospecting list full of his contacts – he responded with “I’m too busy to go through each one, but I trust you; so go ahead and contact them all, and tell them I said they have to meet with you.” I guess that was the only time in my career that being told “I’m too busy” by a client was a great thing.