In this episode of Selling the Sandler Way, Dave Mattson, the President and CEO of Sandler Training explores the Sandler Selling Philosophies behind the Sandler Selling System with Chuck Polin, a Sandler Trainer.
Dave Mattson: We’re talking about the nontraditional ways to get better and more referrals. If you think about that, as professional salespeople and managers, we always want to make sure that we’re in a position to get better referrals. We’ve taught, and we still teach, obviously, many different ways to get referrals within the Sandler process. Today we’re going to be talking about some of the nontraditional ways—some of the techniques and strategies you may have heard in the past. I think many of them you will probably hear for the first time. We’re using the Sandler philosophy overarching this big push of getting referrals.
If we’re out there every day under client development, we know it’s far more productive to be in front of a referral than it is with somebody that’s completely cold. As a matter of fact, they say it’s five times less expensive for an organization to sell and be in front of referrals than it is to go and develop unnamed business, which I believe. If you’re not an owner of a company, you may say, “All right. Well, five times less expensive—who cares?” If you measure that on time and efficiency, which of course we would be paying attention to as individuals, that hits home. Today we’ve got Chuck Polin, a long-time Sandler trainer, who is going to give us his insights. Chuck’s been with us for … How long now, Chuck?
Chuck Polin: Just over 19 years.
Dave Mattson: Long time. Just to set the stage—obviously, I know that you’re in front of executives, helping them increase their effectiveness, and certainly in front of salespeople, as well, so we can look at this from both perspectives. When you look at your own business, just to kind of start off, how much comes from referrals?
Chuck Polin: In 2012, it was 78%, David.
Dave Mattson: Wow, okay. We’re talking three-quarters of our business is coming from referrals. I think if you’re listening out there and you could do a quick calculation for your bulk of the business, sure, it’s probably much less than what Chuck has just said, so we’re in for some great insights and treats. Chuck, where do we start on this topic?
Chuck Polin: I think there are three different ways and areas that we need to concentrate on before we ask for the referrals, David. The first is to have a good 30-second commercial. As Sandler people, we are taught to be problem solvers, and we need to be able to have people understand the problems that we solve. To do that, we need to be able, in 30 seconds, to get that point across.
For us, it would be something like, “I’m Chuck Polin with Sandler Systems. We work with clients that are unhappy because they’re just not in front of qualified prospects. Sometimes we work with business owners that are frustrated because they end up doing too much free consulting and not closing enough business. And other times, we work with folks that are just annoyed because they’re busy all the time, but at the end of the day, they just haven’t made enough money.”
Dave Mattson: On our 30-second commercial, though, obviously, we’ve been taught that in the Pain Step. We’ve been taught the 30-second commercial in prospecting. You’re using it, it sounds like, as a foundation to go into that conversation, so that’s slightly different than what maybe most people are doing.
Chuck Polin: Yes. What we’re going to do is try and give you some ways today to be able to use that and to understand that most people have at their disposal the opportunity to get referrals in ways they wouldn’t normally think of. The other suggestion we would make for all of our clients is they have a top 40 list of target clients that they would like to work with. That could be verticals, as far as industry-specific. In this area, it might be education, healthcare, and financial. Typically, what you want to do is look at your current clients now and see what vertical they’re in. There probably are five or six other people in that vertical that you’d like to get in front of. It’s very helpful to know exactly what your ideal client looks like, and frankly, exactly who they are. Having a target top 40 is very helpful. For our clients and us, generally what we’re looking at is, over the course of a year, we’d like to close two to four of that target top 40 and use referrals to be able to do that.
Dave Mattson: You’re then … Just out of curiosity, when you work with clients for the first time, how many that come to you already have targeted their top 40? It sounds intuitive, but I would have to think the number is low.
Chuck Polin: It’s probably less than 10%.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, okay.
Chuck Polin: The other issue that you want to do that maybe is less traditional, and Sandler certainly teaches us, is as you’re talking to people, have a fuzzy file on them. We say the most listened-to radio station is WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me?” We need to understand when we’re talking to somebody: What’s in it for them to have a conversation with us? Traditionally, when I work with clients, they always immediately think of a referral for a referral. Sometimes they feel, “Well, I can’t give a referral.” Other times they think, “Well, I did great work, so I deserve one.”
Our feeling is you need to think out of the box a little bit and understand what else you can do for that potential referral partner. That means things like, “Okay, how many kids do you have?” Our experience is for partners and people we want referrals from, if you do something for some of these kids, they almost never forget you. I need to know if I’m working with somebody that’s going to give me a referral. I like to know what they’re interested in, how many kids they have, how old their kids are, whether their kids play softball, whether they play an instrument—what I can do to make myself special and different from everybody else, and how I can differentiate myself from the other people that are asking them the same questions.
The other types of things I like to know are: Are they involved in a non-profit? What kinds of interest do they have outside of their work? It would not be unusual for me to have a conversation with somebody that I asked for a referral. I’ll give you a very specific example. We have a client that has given me over 20 clients over the last 15 years. He’s in a business where I really can’t refer anybody back to him. It’s a very narrow niche in the aviation business. We don’t work with a lot of jet companies.
However, he’s on the board of a non-profit for veterans, so every year what we do for his celebration gala is that we will take a table and donate that table back to the non-profit, so they can invite soldiers that couldn’t afford to go to the event. It becomes a win-win, and frankly, he feels obligated. What’s in it for him is that we make a contribution to his charity, and we donate that table back to him; it’s a win-win for everybody concerned because frankly, I don’t need the additional chicken dinner anyway.
Dave Mattson: We know that rule from pain, right? Pain is personal, but instead what you said is the one on one—I like that. You’ve expanded that target for “what’s in it for me” to other things in their life that are important to them, which once you say it, it makes sense. But I do think what you said is how we, most of the time, would position it as, “I give you one; I get one.” I’m not sure that’s always accurate, but as you said, this has got more punch-value to it in a positive way.
Chuck Polin: The other issue that we run into when people traditionally ask for referrals is the answer that we use to get and that our clients get all the time is, “Geez, we love the kind of work you do, and I can’t think of anybody else off the top of my head, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I do,” and about 95% of the time they never get back to you.
Our feeling is you need to give them a very accurate picture of who you’d like to be introduced to. That’s one of the reasons why we put together a target top 40, but we’d like to give a couple of other suggestions of ways to help your people think of who they could introduce you to.
For example, you might ask who their top five clients are. You might ask who their top five vendors that sell to them are. What we know is, the United States Department of Labor tells us that 98% of businesses in the United States belong to some sort of trade association. You may want to ask them who other members of their trade association are that they could introduce you to, and maybe you can help them with the same kinds of problems.
Then, typically, people socialize with people a lot like themselves. You may want to ask who they go out to dinner with, if they belong to a country club, and who they play golf with. That way you have about 20 specific types of people, you can ask for that referral for, as well as your targeted top 40.
Dave Mattson: I like that. You’ve now helped them. You’ve almost put them in a position to think about certain groups of people, versus that dragnet of, “Who do you know?” which, of course, as you say, comes up with nobody. That’s on purpose, I’m sure.
Chuck Polin: What we need to do is help them. One of the other issues that we run into with referrals is that we find people know a lot of people, but inevitably those people never refer them, anybody. Sometimes they can be neighbors, they could be friends, they can be relatives, but it goes back to your 30-second commercial. Most people that you know don’t know the problems you solve.
One of the exercises that I will do for a new client who’s looking to get more referrals is having them do what we do call an ABC exercise. That breaks down their context. Those people that are in their Rolodex, break them into three categories. Category A is those people that will call you back within 24 hours. Category B is those people that are going to call you back within 24 to 72 hours. Category C is, “Well, maybe they’ll call me back, maybe they won’t.” Have conversations with all of those people, basically saying, “You know what? It’s probably my fault, but I’m not aware of the kinds of problems you solve in your business. Would it make sense for us to share that with each other?”
Again, people like to talk about themselves, so you ask them about the kinds of problems they solve. You then go into your 30-second commercial, and then it’s a simple reverse like, “Geez, if you were me, how would you go about trying to do more business with you and trying to figure out how we can help each other?” For most people, their ABC list is somewhere between 300 and 500 people. I only need about 20% to come through for me to make this whole referral idea work. With people, relatives, neighbors, anybody that you know that’s a contact. Everybody has a referral list that they can call from.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, so you’re cross referencing, whether it’s top five vendors, top five clients, whether it’s a trade organization—you then cross reference it with your ABCs. You’re helping them narrow it down, and then actually for the lack of another term, jointly problem solving who pops up on their list. They’re participating in this process.
Chuck Polin: What we want them to do is have a vested interest in the success of this, so they understand it’s a win-win situation.
Dave Mattson: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Just out of curiosity, are you doing the same and helping them with yours, at the same time? How does this work?
Chuck Polin: This is pretty much how we do our business. We’ll sit down with these folks. We need to make sure in our world that we’re helping them first, and they understand, frankly, that we’ve lived in their world. We know the issues that they’re facing. They sit in a couple of President’s Clubs and fundamentals classes, and they know the kinds of problems that we solve. Then, typically what we’ll do in a coaching session is help them with their list and then say, “Well, let’s do an example. Why don’t you see if it makes sense to help us, so therefore by helping us you can see how you can help yourself?”
Dave Mattson: Okay, that makes sense.
Chuck Polin: This accounts for the bulk of our business because we’re able to narrow it in. Now, additionally with this, what we like to do is use LinkedIn. About 75% of our folks are involved in LinkedIn. What we do with LinkedIn—and again, we like to have our people look at their cookbooks as part of their daily plan—is go through one to two people a day in LinkedIn and say, “Who are those people linked into that might be good referrals or people you’d like to be introduced to?”
We know that a referral source that personally introduces you to somebody closes about 80% of the time, four out of five times—by using this ABC referral method, by using LinkedIn, by being introduced personally. What that means is, as part of a daily action plan, as well, you may want to have four to five meetings a week. I’m a large man, so basically I’m good for three to four breakfasts and three to four lunches a week.
Dave Mattson: Okay.
Chuck Polin: People like to be fed. We like to have two people other than ourselves at the meeting—the person that’s referring us, as well as the person they’re referring to. They share their experience with us, and it makes it a lot warmer. It makes it a lot fuzzier, and the closing percentage is much higher.
Dave Mattson: At that meeting then … Because what you’re talking about is a handoff meeting, right? You’re doing an introduction-
Chuck Polin: It is, exactly—a handoff meeting.
Dave Mattson: You’re doing an introduction meeting. How far do you take this call? Is it just to see if they have interest and then you set a time to talk offline?
Chuck Polin: Generally, what we want to do is, first, identify the person we’re being referred to. Have that person call that person first to make sure there’s some interest, that there’s a problem we can help them solve. We call that qualifying. What we don’t want to do is talk to a lot of people that aren’t qualified to talk to us. We are counting on the person referring us to do that qualifying. Once they’ve qualified it, then what I’d like is a personal introduction that takes place within a week or two. We find that it shortens the selling cycle; that third-party endorsement becomes really important.
One of the things that we’ve done on our website and a lot of Sandler people have done, as well, is we have videos on our website. So that shows we work with law firms. We work with accounting firms. We work with manufacturers. We have videos that are on our website where if in fact, somebody’s referring me to a particular industry, I can have them say, “You know what? Go on our website, hit the video, take a look at it, see what those people have said and then see if it makes sense for us to talk.”
Dave Mattson: Now let’s figure out. You’ve got an introduction, you’ve got them for their point of view, and you’ve sent them to the website for further credibility. If they show up at the meeting, I’m not saying they’re able, but you certainly have a willing participant in this conversation.
Chuck Polin: Generally, we ask the persons referring us to talk about the budget with them up front and to let them know how much they’ve paid to work with the program. Because for us, for a lot of folks, the budget’s an issue. I would rather get that out of the way up front. It is, in fact, our greatest fear. I feel better about the person that’s referring us to say, “Hey, understand that this is going to run you about $10,000, and if that’s all the money in the world to you, you may not want to take your time to meet Chuck.”
Dave Mattson: At that point … Let’s just be specific. I introduce you to an acquaintance of mine. I’ve known them relatively well, and they’re an A category. If I push back on the $10,000, I can have that conversation without even involving you, Chuck. Because I can say, “Listen, you’ve been complaining to me now for four months about a particular problem. This is a no-brainer, and by the way, my association with Chuck has given me 15-20 times ROI.” That stuff happens behind the scenes, I’m sure, in a way that could be said with me as a friend, versus you as “the salesperson.”
Chuck Polin: That’s why we like that warm referral. There are other ways to get some of these warm referrals. We do programs for some very large companies that spend a lot of money participating in non-profit boards. One of the things that we’re always amazed by is how many folks that we work with aren’t able to generate new revenue from non-profit boards. The rule of thumb is if you’re on a non-profit board, you have some passion about the organization. That could be a disease, or it could be regarding animals or an alumni association. Generally, non-profit boards attract, in our experience, business owners and decision makers.
Typically, I sit on five different boards. What I will typically do in sitting on those boards is understand who’s on the board and who of those people might be either potential clients or folks that know a lot of people in the community that can give me credibility. I generally will ask them for a cup of coffee with the understanding that we have this passion, the organization in common, and I’d love to find out about them and why they got involved in the organization. Our experience is, most people at those kinds of meetings like to talk about themselves more than anything else in the world. Is that fair?
Dave Mattson: Absolutely.
Chuck Polin: They tell me why they’re passionate about the organization. I will ask them about themselves, their business, how they got their business started. They love to talk about that kind of thing. It generally could be … In the conversation, they might ask me about me. That’s okay. I will tell them why I’m passionate about the organization.
Now, at that point, if I see a good fit, I think there’s some synergy, and I believe that there is some potential there, I will not, at that initial meeting, close for business or even talk about business. What I will typically say at the end of that meeting is, “You know what, Dave? I’ve enjoyed chatting; I’d love to learn more about your business. I’m not quite sure it makes sense for us to sit down to see whether we can help each other, but I’ve enjoyed the conversation. I think aside from helping the organization we might be able to do more together.” Does that make sense?
Dave Mattson: Yes, it does.
Chuck Polin: Then variably, they want to sit down, and we’ll have the business discussion at a second meeting. That’s warmer. It’s fuzzier. And it is amazing how that connection through that I’ve been corporate chair of juvenile diabetes for the last 12 years. We like to keep ROI on, for anything I’m going to take the time or spend money on, we need to look at the ROI, and that’s always been close to six figures a year from that organization.
Dave Mattson: Can I ask you a question based on what you’ve said thus far?
Chuck Polin: Sure.
Dave Mattson: Have you found or intuitively know or tracked when somebody’s not willing to give you that introduction, that warm introduction, as you’re calling it? Do you find that it plays out and they still become a client? Or do you find that you don’t bother chasing it? Or is it just a much lower conversion rate from A, conversations, and then B, closes? Because I have to believe there’s a direct correlation for those that are listening.
Chuck Polin: Great question. If there’s someone who has absolutely no interest whatsoever, the key word here is “next.” Don’t waste a lot of time with them. If, in fact, there is some synergy maybe on a non-profit and that’s going to cut them off totally because we’re going to have that relationship through the non-profit. What has happened to me is, you know what? The first time there wasn’t an immediate connection, but after they see the work that we do with the non-profit after a year or so, all of a sudden, they typically want to revisit the conversation.
The important part about being on a board is you need to participate, and people need to see you at work, so they can appreciate the kinds of skills you bring to the table. Many times, it isn’t an immediate connection, but other times you can’t be disingenuous about sitting on a board. You have to be passionate about the organization. People will see if you’re not really serious. Once they see you at work, it just makes everything a lot easier. You are looking for, frankly, both short- and long-term relationships that turn into business off board service.
Dave Mattson: You’re giving as well as taking.
Chuck Polin: That’s the key. You need to be willing to, as I say, be passionate and typically … We work with a number of non-profits. They’re looking for three things. They’re looking for door openers, doers and money. They want door openers, people who can introduce them to people that will give them money. Then they also need doers, the people who will actually do the work, run the golf tournament, help run the locker, whatever they’re doing, so they need all three. You just need to be good at one of those three to create those relationships.
Dave Mattson: Makes sense.
Chuck Polin: We find that non-profit boards can be very good. As a result of some of these things that we’ve mentioned, one of the other things that our clients have done successfully over the last 17 or 18 years is—and most times, they come out of fundamentals initially—is forming something that we call a peer group. A peer group is a group of like-minded individuals. They’re in different disciplines. What they do is meet on a regular basis to figure out how they can do business with one another and how they can make introductions for one another and act as a sales force for each other. Right now, we belong to four different peer groups. One is where we would like to do business with companies that do over a $100 million. We don’t have very many of them, but we have several. The three that we’re working with now have all come from this one peer group with targets, and we all talk about the kinds companies we’d like to deal with and help each other get into those kinds of companies.
I have another peer group which is Business Clubs of America, where we get together every other month, bring in the speaker that presents knowledge to the group. And then in between, we meet as groups of eight to 10 to pick business topics and then figure out, again, what the problems are that we each solve and how we can help each other generate more revenue.
We find that a targeted business development referral source of this nature can be very helpful. Typically, what we want to do is have them be in non-billable hours, no-pay time. For us, typically one of these meetings might be in the morning from 7 to 8. One of my sons is in business, and he enjoys cocktail hour more, so he’ll generally meet from 5:30 to 7 over cocktails. They’re not between 9 and 5.
Dave Mattson: When you say, “peer group,” I think people are correlating that to a small, focused networking group. Are you using those terms interchangeably? Or is there more that goes on?
Chuck Polin: It’s more focused on that because what happens is in-between meetings we’re sitting down with the individuals in that peer group and doing these other exercises that I’ve mentioned to make sure that they are focused on generating referrals. Again, what we like to look at are, just like my clients look at time and materials—how much time are we spending? How much return on investment are we getting? There may not be a financial investment, but in fact, there is a time investment. If you’re going to belong to something of this nature, then we need to see a return on investment.
You can take the concept, and there are peer groups. You can belong to a country group or private clubs. The fact of the matter is you can form groups with any or each of those and, in fact, that’s exactly what we’ve done. As I say, we have four peer groups that we’re active in now, as well as these several boards I sit on. In all of those, I use these techniques that we’ve talked about regarding getting referrals because of the wideness of the scope of people I’m talking to and the wideness of the scope of the number of referrals I can get.
Dave Mattson: Okay, makes sense. As you go through this, are there—because you’ve got some good ideas—are there others that pop up in your mind that you know that your clients grab onto? Because I think for the people that are listening to this or jotting down notes feverously, if they are on boards, they probably aren’t proactively participating in the groups that you’ve described. They probably don’t have focus groups or mentoring groups. I like those as well. Peer group is good. I think you hear about it, you see it, and you’re giving us the meat on the bone today that helps us better understand how to get it done, which I think is the magic. Are there others that pop up that you know are like “go-to’s” that you found over the years that people gravitate towards?
Chuck Polin: Again, it’s creating your own. But again, I’ll give you another example of one of the things that we do. We formed another type of group that we call CEO Alliance. That’s CEOs speaking to other CEOs. I had a program last month, and we had the CEO of the local BlueCross and Blue Shield. Healthcare is a hot topic in this area. We have five other people involved in the group sponsoring it. We invite CEOs, and we had 91 CEOs show up. The other folks in the group… And again, if anybody plays golf or tennis, the idea is to play with people better than you. When we form a group like this, we have the same idea. Our partners in this are Morgan Louis, which is a large law firm. We also brought in a large county consulting firm. They tend to bring larger companies to the table.
We had speakers speak for an hour and ask questions. Again, the way that we do this is only partners can invite people to come, and we have those partners introduce us at the meeting, before the meeting, or after the meeting to those CEOs that they invited. That is, in fact, another way that may not be traditional where you generate referrals and get to meet people off the kind of target audience that you’d like.
Dave Mattson: Let’s talk about the CEO focus group. If I’m selling insurance, or even take accounting, can I do the same thing, or is it a bit watered down? We have an advantage, right? We’re in the training business, but you’ve mentioned other companies that certainly their CEOs are not in our industry. But if I was a salesperson in insurance, could I do one of those? If so, what would it look like? It’s got to be a little different, right?
Chuck Polin: It is a little different, but our experience is—and, hopefully, it’s one of the areas that we can help our clients with—they need to understand that there are people just like them. Let’s take insurance specifically. Most people don’t sell all insurance. They may sell benefits; they may do risk management, they might do life insurance. Those other folks would be good folks to join in on the group because they both are looking to sell to business owners. Generally, business attorneys are looking to sell to business people. Accountants—it doesn’t have to be the CEO, but accountants are looking to do mid-sized, small, and depending on the size of the firm, maybe larger businesses. I am looking for other people like myself.
What we find that CEOs and sales managers are looking for is content that can help them with their businesses. Let me give you a specific example, again. We work with a law firm that’s trying to break into the pharmaceutical world because, in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there is a large number of pharmaceutical companies. The problem for my client is that frankly those folks haven’t been waiting for them to call, and they’ve been working with some competitors.
What we had them do was put together a program where … The good thing about dealing with the government, in this case specifically the FDA, is you can’t pay the speakers, and you can’t even pay their travel expenses, but they’re glad to come and speak to groups. What they did is they targeted 25 pharmaceutical companies in the area, and they hear a speaker from the FDA talk about how to get new products approved. Out of 25 firms that they invited to hear the speaker from the FDA, how many do you think showed up?
Dave Mattson: Well, yeah, that’s awesome.
Chuck Polin: 25 showed up.
Dave Mattson: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Chuck Polin: Our client facilitated the conversation with the person from the FDA. They looked like the subject matter expert, and all of a sudden, all these potential clients that they had never been in front of, never picked up the phone for them, never recognized their existence, were now in their facilities listening to their speaker in a program being facilitated by them. And by the way, within a week they were able to generate a half-dozen appointments as a direct result of that.
Dave Mattson: They just played Charlie Rose, really. They played that commentator.
Chuck Polin: That’s it.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, and raised their credibility amongst the group that they couldn’t get in front of otherwise, probably.
Chuck Polin: It’s funny. When I do programs, the less I talk, the smarter I look.
Dave Mattson: Right.
Chuck Polin: Again, that’s a variation of that CEO concept and targeting clients. To get the referrals and get in front of the people, you need to think out of the box a little bit. It can also be fun. David Sandler has this saying that we’ve always lived by and that is, “If the competition is doing it, I need to stop.”
Dave Mattson: True.
Chuck Polin: What I need to do is figure out ways to get in front of my potential market and differentiate myself from everybody else while I do that.
Dave Mattson: What do you say to the people who say, “Chuck, this is all great stuff, but everything that you’ve talked about stacks more hours on top of my current 23.5-hour schedule per day.” I’m sure you hear it. It’s common. They said, “These are great. When do I find the time to do that?” How do you respond to that, because you have to have heard it?
Chuck Polin: We only hear it not more than five or six times a day.
Dave Mattson: Right.
Chuck Polin: The issue is this. Number one, we know from time management surveys that most people waste 25% to 30% of a given day. What we want to look at is pay time versus no-pay time. For my clients, especially those who charge a billable hourly rate, I want them to bill as many hours as they can. So many of these activities can be before a business opens, or after a business closes, or over lunch that they would normally take anyway.
For my busy professionals, what we tell them is to prospect: “Give me a half-hour or an hour a day.” We have a lot of people that have to do more than sell; they have to do the work, as well as sell. Time management is, in fact, a real issue for them. It’s a matter of targeting what your best return of the year investment on time is. For us, it’s referrals, and it’s being able to leverage these kinds of groups, so we don’t have to work so hard.
If you target and, again, do a cookbook, do your behaviors and schedule that hour a day—just like you would schedule an appointment with a client and you wouldn’t miss that—you can’t miss your prospecting time, or, in this case, your referral time. It’s a matter of putting it in your schedule. You don’t have to do it three or four hours a day. Figure out at what point, what percentage of a day are you being paid to generate more revenue?
Dave Mattson: We’ve got a cookbook, and patience is not a great virtue with most salespeople. How long should people let this process take place before they start to tweak and judge it? I think often we start things like that, and you pop your head out four to eight hours later and say, “It’s not working.” What have you found?
Chuck Polin: Depending on the situation, 90 days is normal. However, for some of the ABC things that we’ve talked about, you’ll start to see results within the first week or so. It’s a matter of actually doing the behavior. The behavior won’t work, I promise if you don’t do it. Say that you can’t eat the elephant in one bite. What I would do is break this down into small chunks, things that you feel comfortable doing. Start with the real basic things. It’s just all about management. People are talking to clients every day. By the same token, it doesn’t take very long.
We did a session on cold calling yesterday, and I had somebody say, “Well, you know, my job is prospecting, and it’s hard to make 30 calls a day.” We had the conversation. I said, “Really? How long does it take you to make each dial?” “Well, less than a minute.” “Of those 30 calls a day you make, how many conversations do you have?” “Well, geez, maybe 20% of them.” “I’m a little confused. How long does that take? If your job is business development, the reason you couldn’t make 100 to 120 phone calls would be what?” They really don’t have a good answer for me.
Dave Mattson: Right. They’re out there doing busy work, right?
Chuck Polin: They look for excuses not to pick up the phone, or not do this type of thing. Again, one of the things that we like is having an accountability buddy. Have somebody that’s going to hold you accountable for doing the behavior. We look at three things. We look at the focus, commitment, and accountability. You need to be committed to do whatever it takes to do this as a behavior. You then need to be focused to look for the result—how many referrals am I going to get each day? I need to make sure that I’m accountable to somebody.
Dave Mattson: Makes sense. Let me go back to an earlier comment. How important is giving feedback to the person who introduced, who referred you? What’s the, I guess, communication loop that you suggest?
Chuck Polin: The communication loop is about three things: relationship, trust, and integrity. You can’t just be asking for referrals. You need to understand that if somebody’s made a referral, they have a relationship with somebody. The integrity is the integrity that you will treat them as ladies and gentlemen and make the referral partner look good. When someone refers us to somebody else, we have an obligation to that person to, number one, let them know where we are in the process. Number two, we need to let them know how that individual is doing because invariably what we want is for that individual they refer to thank that referral partner, so that reinforces that referral partner to want to do it again.
Dave Mattson: Right. I think I found, over time, people don’t respond back and get feedback and tell them, especially if you have a long selling cycle. There’s just … You never knew what happened unless you see the person you referred at some event months later. But I found the same—they’re curious. It just reinforces their positive behavior of giving you a referral. That’s all true. I just think, for some reason, it’s not in the cookbook to continue giving people that feedback.
Chuck Polin: One of the things that we like to do and that we, frankly, reinforce the behavior, is to get back to those people because there are occasions where people don’t respond the way we would like when we refer to them. Assuming that I maintain the dialogue to the person that referred me to somebody else if they’re not responding the way I would like, I also need to feel comfortable to go back to that person that referred them and say, “You know, I never heard back from Joe. I hope I didn’t offend him in some way.”
Dave Mattson: Good point.
Chuck Polin: Then they will go back and check with Joe, and Joe will say, “Oh, you know, I’ve got tied up. Something happened. I meant to get back to him.” And we start the process all over again.
Dave Mattson: Good. You have shifted the help, the responsibility, to your referral to help you get back in front of that person because there was a reason why they said “yes”—that’s the mindset—”there is a reason why I wanted to talk to Chuck.” I’m sure there are nine million fires that have come up. It’s better that the person who referred you to them would make that phone call.
Chuck Polin: There is a reason we call it a fuzzy file. We need to be warm and fuzzy with everybody, and develop those relationships, develop that trust and understand that we’re going to go out of our way for them. This Sunday, I am doing a customer service program for somebody that gave us a couple of good referrals. They said, “Well, we’re doing this retreat, you know, if anybody could do a customer service program …” They’ve given us several good referrals so I said, “Well, you probably wouldn’t be interested in us coming in to help you with that.” They said, “Well, the problem is I’m not sure what kind of budget we have.” I said, “Geez, so you’re going to have lunch?” He said, “Well, yeah.” I said, “There’s your budget, you know. I’m more than happy to do it.”
Dave Mattson: That’s nice. We’re back into that “what’s in it for me” fuzzy file thing and of course-
Chuck Polin: Exactly.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, I like that. Chuck, I think there is a lot of stuff that we’ve gone over today. If we were to pick one topic that we may want to reinforce, or hasn’t been said yet, does anything come to mind? I think if you were taking notes during today’s program, we could have pages upon stuff that you’ve shared with us thus far.
Chuck Polin: I think the important thing, frankly, is to go back to the basics with your cookbook to make sure that you have referrals on a daily basis in your cookbook and to figure out a way that’s comfortable for you. I find that my clients are not necessarily comfortable with what I am, but we need to find out what they are comfortable with so that we can figure out how they can best do the behavior and feel more comfortable doing this. I have a lot of folks that are not comfortable asking for referrals.
One of the things that we teach them is letting the client or the person they’re asking for referrals know that you’re not comfortable. It would sound something like, “I’ve got to tell you. I’m really not comfortable asking this. We’re going through this business development course, and this is one of my homework assignments. I have to tell you I’m so uncomfortable you can’t even believe it, but I need to ask.” We find when people are very honest with the people they’re asking and letting them know that they’re not comfortable, people want to go out of their way to help them.
Dave Mattson: Right. Rescuer kicks in, right?
Chuck Polin: We have a lot of people for whom the whole idea of asking for referrals is out of their comfort zone. We just need to find a way that will make it more comfortable for them to do the behavior.
Dave Mattson: And elicit help and, at the end of the day, if they’re uncomfortable asking for referrals, then let’s face it—making an outbound cold call to an unnamed account has got to be 20 times worse.
Chuck Polin: What we find is they like to do research.
Dave Mattson: Right.
Chuck Polin: The issue was, “Well, we really can’t spend the return on that investment.”
Dave Mattson: Right. True enough. Hey, lots of good stuff today. I think if we were looking for nontraditional ways to get better referrals, we hit a home run on some of the things that you’ve shared with us today, so I appreciate you coming on.
Chuck Polin: Pleasure. Anytime we can help. All the folks that are out there, I just want them to go sell more.
Dave Mattson: I think, as you heard from Chuck who’s been in the business 19 years, he started off with three great steps I loved, which is to first create your 30-second commercial. We know our 30-second commercials, but I think what Chuck has done now is to bring it into the beginning of the process versus just in the middle of your initial prospecting phone call and/or your Pain Step. You’re setting the stage for the types of companies that you call on and the types of problems that you solve—that was great. You target it to your top 40 companies, giving people a framework of who you’re going after. That would also help your customer when you say, “These are the types of companies that I’m looking for.” I’ve often found when you say to a customer, “Hey, I’d like to get into XYZ Company,” they actually know somebody. And you’d be amazed, and as Chuck said, 5% to 10% of the companies you can expect to get out of your top 40. That’s awesome.
Then, what’s in it for me? Most people gauge this referral process as, “I give one; I get one,” but Chuck, again, has expanded that too, “Hey, let’s talk about things like fuzzy files and your kids and what types of non-profits you sit on.” There are a lot of things that are important to people. If you take the pain concept from Sandler—pain is personal, and you combine that with “what’s in it for me,” it makes perfect sense.
When you’re looking, and you’re asking people what their top five vendors are, their top five clients, or what trade organization they belong to—I mean 90% of people are in a trade organization. Who thought about that? If you do sit back and think about it, you’re probably in multiple trade organizations yourself, and you’re a mere reflection, I’m sure, of those who you call on. That made a lot of sense. I love the idea of being a board member of a non-profit, like the peer group. There’s a lot of things going on here, but I certainly like when Chuck summed it up by saying that you have to have focus commitment and you have to do the behavior. That’s the bottom line.
There’s a lot of stuff that’s going on today. What I’d like you to do is listen to this two to three times, and something will pop up that you didn’t hear the first time. Go back and add these types of behaviors to your cookbook. As Chuck said, take one bite of the elephant at a time, and you’ll see the results. Have patience—you’ll see some of the things happen immediately. You’ll see some of the results, and as far as sales are concerned will depend on your selling cycle, but you will see the results. See it through. Then start to tweak where you think you can get better. Work with your Sandler trainer and up your game. All right, until next time, good selling.
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