I first read Endless Referrals near the turn of the century, and it immediately changed my approach to marketing and to driving work through relationships.
This book is THE book to go to when you want to work out how to generate word of mouth marketing and how to really draw value from your network of contacts.
Bob has very kindly agreed to share some of his extraordinarily insightful advice with us here. I am convinced this will add immediate value to your career.
CP: Many consultants are used to the "doing", but not the "getting" of work. With that in mind, what are some immediate things that they could do to tackle the present economic climate?
Bob: "Getting" work can often be a concern; especially under the circumstances of today’s so-called recession (I say “so-called” because I’ve never been a big believer in allowing the media and politicians to set the expectations for my PERSONAL economy or that of my clients, by their relentless negative reporting on the GENERAL economic conditions).
However, the question seems to contain a “false premise” if you will. That is to think there are some immediate things they should do in the – as you wrote – “current economic climate” that they might not do in a good economic climate.
More often than not, "profits hide problems." In other words, when business is plentiful, we have a tendency to get away from the tried and true basics of business building and management.
When the economy tightens, we often immediately shift back into the mode of consistent and concentrated business building and frugal management.
So, rather than address my answer from the framework of the "present economic climate" which focuses the reader on looking for potential "magic bullets" to protect them from the economic "bogeyman," I think it's best to just approach the answer from the framework of it being a case of best practices - in ANY economic condition.
With that in mind, the most immediately effective actions consultants can take right now are:
1) Establish and develop relationships with people based on being of value to that person; their business and/or their life. Understand that building relationships take time and that it's not important whether or not you believe your new relationship is a direct prospect for your service or not.
That's not important.
Some of the greatest sources of referrals won't be your actual clients. There are no quick fixes, yet when you do this consistently enough with enough new people, some of them do manifest quickly.
2) Re-establish relationships with old contacts and go back to current clients and ask for referrals. A good phrase to bridge into the process is, “Dave, I’m continuing to expand my referral business and I find it’s helpful to partner with my clients, such as you.
Can we take a few quick minutes to run past the names of some people I might also be able to help?” When he says, yes, now take Tom Hopkins’ great advice (from his book, How to Master the Art of Selling ) and help funnel down his world into small groups of A-list, highly-qualified people he can picture.
3) Add value to all your relationships by becoming a "Center of Influence." Be the resource that introduces them to each other and be on the lookout for opportunities to point new business and referrals in their direction.
4) Kick it up a notch when "doing" the work. Delivering higher value than you are compensated for is a necessity. But, it's still not enough. Make sure you are communicating that value in a way that your clients really "get" it and experience it emotionally. This is how you go from a book of business, to a tribe of "raving fans."
5) Adjust your sales messages to fit their changing needs/desires. If there is anything that is specific to this economy, it's this one.
Remember that when you do get to the point in a relationship that you are presenting your service, it is likely that because they may have had some profit erosion (or at least have some fear about that) they're likely to be much more focused on bottom-line retention, security or opportunistic growth.
So, the more you can actually connect what you do with helping them survive or even thrive in this economy, the more they are apt to retain your services.
Q2: A lot of us are really spinning trying to work out how to advertise better. Yet you approach things from a networking and word of mouth perspective. What are some key networking errors that you see on service people such as consultants?
Bob: There’s certainly a time and place for everything, and low-cost advertising strategies should certainly be in the mix. From a networking perspective, some of the biggest errors include expecting results too soon, giving only to receive (instead of to truly add value and increase to that person’s life) and being “me-focused” while believing you are being “other-focused.”
Q3: There is a real paradigm shifter in the book related to giving. In a world filled with cautions against scope creep, and in trying to get maximum leverage from every hour, how can consultants start to give additional value immediately?
Bob: With regards to scope creep, the answer is to politely set limits. While always going the extra mile for our clients, we would be wise to avoid allowing them to set the context of those expectations. Not following that – and allowing scope creep to come into play – actually takes away from our perceived value in the mind of the client.
Our work then becomes their entitlement. That aside, we can always find creative ways to give additional value. Regarding the last word of the question, “immediately” . . . I don’t think it’s a matter of only being immediately, but being constant. Again, the key is that we set the context for that additional value.
Here are just a few ways of consistently adding value and meeting or exceeding expectations:
1) Responsive communications - always getting back to them within X amount of time
2) Communicating the scope and deliverables of a project clearly and succinctly
3) Look for ways to add value that take little to no more time or money to produce. For instance, when my business partner works on a consulting project, he not only produces a final report, but also delivers mp3 audio files of all client interviews, as well as the audio files of his final report review with the client.
This doesn't cost any more to deliver, yet the perceived value and the ease of application is enhanced greatly.
4) Become a resource for your client beyond your area of expertise. Do what you can to connect them with other products or services to meet their needs.
5) Be enjoyable to do business with. Whether it's the smile you have on your face when you talk with them on the phone or in person, or whether it's always bringing a box of donuts every time you visit, make sure you are not only delivering quality service, but that you are also someone they truly enjoy being around and working with.
Q4: In your experience is it possible for an independent consultant to earn a high 6 figure or 7 figure income from home? Or is it essential for them to start a consulting business?
Bob: With a concentration on selling results and not image, and with the prevalence of very high quality virtual assistance and telecommuting services, it is very possible for a consultant to earn a high 6 figure or 7 figure income from home, without having to build and maintain the infrastructure of an old world consultancy.
In fact, because of today's technological improvements and the massive expansion of the internet, it is even more probable today than it was - since today's consultant is able to target and work with clients worldwide in a much more streamlined and efficient manner.
Q5: The whole concept of reducing cold calls is a great one for most consultants. But what can we do to try to increase the success rate of cold calls while we are building our network? (Regardless of which medium you use)
Bob: It’s still all about the relationship so, when making cold calls, your goal is to establish a relationship that you can cultivate.
Remember, no one hangs up on you while they are talking. It is key to ask the questions that will enable you to understand your prospective client and at the same time help him or her to recognize their potential need.
That connection, focused on their needs, not on what you're selling, is what establishes a relationship with a solid prospect. Once that happens, it’s up to you to cultivate that relationship through value-based follow-up
Of course Bob was not satisfied with leaving it there. The master of added value, Bob (with John David Mann) has recently written a new business parable called The Go Giver . A book about how to give value to receive good will.
If you go to his site here you can download the first chapter of his new book . I am reading through it now!
As he always says "All things being equal people will buy from people they know, like and trust".A great interview with a great personality. Fantastic.
And if you are serious about generating a word of mouth tidal wave, then you simply MUST buy Endless Referrals also. Simply the last word on networking.