Mom’s Advice Works in Sales, Too: Never Talk to Strangers

In sales, success is measured largely by how well you master the art and science of knowing who is in your referral network and who is in your connector network.

What’s the difference? Your referrals network is composed of the 100 people who you and each person in your network knows. These 100 people know you and know what products and services you provide. They actually understand how to talk about you and your company.

In contrast, you have a set of cheerleaders we can call your connectors, the five or six people who know you well, trust you, have turned into raving fans about the value you bring, and don’t mind telling the world about you.

The single most important distinction between a referral and a connector is results. Connectors far more frequently provide you with warm referrals and have positioned your company, at least conceptually, as a solution for a potential buyer. Your conversion rate from these referrals will be very high. Five for five is not uncommon.

Make a list of the last 50 new clients someone referred to you. Did the referrals come from 50 different people in your referral network, or from a much smaller core within your network, your connectors?

These criteria will help you determine which of your contacts, qualifies as a connector for you.

  • Friendly
  • A raving fan
  • Interested in what you do and who you are as a person
  • Constantly introduces people, will go out of his or her way to introduce you
  • Proactive
  • A good talker and a better listener
  • Trainable
  • Will ask difficult questions
  • Not afraid to put his or her reputation on the line
  • Has credibility and is respected in the community
  • Doesn’t expect anything in return

Following are tips that have worked for me and my clients in the past, bringing markedly increased revenues, improved cash flow and a broader customer base.

TIP #1 Track your leads

Designing an effective, yet simple, tracking system to document where every lead/referral comes from is not merely an academic exercise. It’s instructive, of course, but not in any way passive. It’s a powerful first step in actively “growing” new customers for your business.

TIP #2 Be open to change

Let me be very clear here. You can read this article, work hard at applying it in your sales career and still not achieve the level of success you wished, because you did not substantially change your mental approach.
TIP #3 Seed your team

Your sales team is the core incubator of your new referrals and leads. Populate your sales team with natural-born connectors, and you can’t help but succeed. Select your core using the criteria I mentioned earlier. These people are wired differently. They thrive on helping people – even strangers. There may occasionally be turnover in this inner circle, and that’s okay. But remember, actions speak louder than words. How you manage your relationship with them will determine your financial success.

TIP #4 Remember the 100

Don’t write off your referral network simply because strong referrals and leads haven’t traditionally come from them. Instead, work to cultivate connectors from your referral network. You already tend to them on a personal level, that’s why they like you. However, you need to systematize your communications and follow-up activities with them.

TIP #5 Educate, then educate some more

Once you have decided who is and who is not on your connectors list, make a list of people in your personal and business network. You should easily be able to come up with at least 100 names of people in your network or, as some like to call it, your “circle of influence.”

When you understand how to educate the 100 people in your network and motivate them to talk to each of the 100 people in their network, your referral chances will substantially increase. In case math is not your strong suit, that is 10,000 people who know about you because of how effectively the 100 in your network talks about you.

Connectors are at the core of your sales force. They can easily triple your income in sales if you take care of your relationships and manage the process correctly. Of course, you are really in the relationship business, not the sales business. We all are.

John Lankford

John Lankford was recognized as the 2007-2010 Associate Business Advisor of the Year in North America and brings proven executive experience and best practices to select companies every year. He served 18 years at the Executive Education Center at Ford Motor Company and is former Senior Director of Ascension Health Learning Institute. John has developed top leaders around the world in partnership with the University of Michigan Business School, the Center for Creative Leadership, Comcast University and GE University, to name a few. His business expertise has been tapped by prominent business media such as the New York Times, CBS and Dbusiness magazine and has been a syndicated business columnist. He is the author of The Answer is Leadership and Superstar for life…Career Transitions. John’s keynote speaking has landed him on the elite team that trains and certifies the new Executive Coaches joining the worldwide coaching community. John is also former Chief Executive Officer of the Innisbrook Leadership Institute. Lankford can be reached at [email protected] or call (888) 730-1950

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