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Too Chicken To Ask For Referrals? - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


Believe it or not, you are doing your customers a favor by asking them to recommend your store.

Who are your clients? These are people with whom you’ve built rapport. You’ve worked hard to earn their trust and you have a relationship with them. Without this trusting relationship all you have is a customer who shopped in your store once, and who may shop there again.

Who are these people? They bought from you and that makes them among the best and the brightest consumers out there. Other people bought a "green one" from "that salesperson" down the street!

These people believe in you and in your store, so are you asking them to tell their friends and colleagues about you? It’s a jungle out there! It’s time for you to engage in warfare techniques of the new millennium, and become a "guerrilla!" Don’t send your clients and anyone they know down "the street" to buy the next thing they need from a stranger?

Today’s consumers are becoming "guerrilla consumers." They no longer just want service. They don’t want to settle, and merely be satisfied. They want super service, so you need to dazzle them. Prove to them that you are "The One" who will make the difference! According to Jay Conrad Levinson the best way to do this is to satisfy them with "guerrilla marketing." That means "meeting -- and then exceeding -- customer expectations." It’s time to move up. Time to excel and create a "guerrilla enterprise." Let’s talk about this. Let’s get you winning the war, and "taking no prisoners!"

"Guerrillas know that people would much rather buy from a ‘problem-solving consultant’ than from a product-pushing salesperson! They pay close attention to people, to ‘the’ person. They make each one feel unique. They create a human bond. The stronger the human bond, the stronger the business bond."

Guerrillas know that their clients are not buying things, they are buying expectations. If you meet these expectations, you will surprise them! However, if you exceed their expectations, you will shock them! In keeping with the motto of American Express, "our mission is to keep the card member spoiled," Guerrillas spoil their clients by giving them the unexpected. To quote Conrad in "The Way of the Guerrilla," "they gave them more than they anticipated, faster than they anticipated, more convenient than they anticipated, and offered them better service than they anticipated.” By employing this strategy, any passive customer will turn into a zealous evangelist for your cause, right before your eyes! What a great surprise maneuver! It’s a brilliant strategic move. You’ll also create such a skirmish, that the experience of dealing with you will be memorable. What we don’t and can’t forget -- we talk about - to anyone and everyone - everywhere! Now that you have a plan, it is time to work that plan.

As Tom Peters says about "guerrilla entrepreneurs," "build your own firm, create your own network. It’s that or bust." Expertise is more important than ever before. It’s become a "skill-eat-skill economy." "Care like crazy" about your performance, your results, and your clients. You care about them and they care about you. Why wouldn’t you ask them to recommend you? Why wouldn’t they want to help you build your network? As Tom emphasizes, "the only way to lose is not to try." Why don’t we do this? Why don’t you ask them to spread the news for you and for your company? A couple of words come to mind. The first is terror, "S - H- E - E - R terror!" The next word is that 4-letter "F-word," - FEAR! Both words can have a profound effect. They make us "twitch," breakout, and develop the disease of "Excutitis!"

You know that you are suffering from excutitis if you find yourself saying these things about referrals...

  • "It’s too pushy."
  • "It’s tacky!"
  • "It sounds like a used car salesperson."
  • "I include business cards in my Thank You notes - that’s enough, thank you!"
  • "I don’t need to ask them. They liked me. I know they’ll recommend me."
  • "I’m not comfortable doing THAT!"
  • I can do it myself
You may be a card-carrying member of "Do- It- Yourself Anonymous." In that case, you find yourself thinking...
  • I’m the "independent type."
  • "I was taught to do everything on my own. I don’t ‘need’ anyone. I can do this all by myself."
  • I’m afraid of looking incompetent.

These mindsets are just excuses and misdirected pride. Salespeople who routinely ask for referrals find that when they seek support, they help to build a sense of community, and to cement their relationship. It does NOT make them look weak.

There are also salespeople who feel that they " don’t deserve the help," or are afraid of rejection.

Many salespeople, especially us females, suffer from "I made-my-own-bed-itis!" We feel that we are "in this alone." According to psychologists, these folks need to take a "princess pill," and realize that they are entitled to ask for help. Both males and females can also suffer from a firm mindset that they can do everything alone. They feel that their success or failure is their own affair and nobody else’s. Remember, we’re all in this together, you, me, & "Ethel!" Get her playing on "your team!"

It is a big mistake to make the assumption that your clients will react negatively if you ask them to refer their friends and acquaintances. Let them speak for themselves. Hey, they bought you, already, remember? Let them make their own decisions.

Why would any of your clients feel pressured. They bought you because you are not "Atilla the Hun!" They like you, they really like you! Do not use this excuse as another reason to develop a case of excutitis.

Some people believe that other "humans" should just notice when they need something. Having a good relationship with your customer doesn’t mean that they can read your mind. You need to share your mind. You need to "Tell them what the rules are!" Let them know how you, as a professional, work. How you conduct "your" business. If you don’t ask -- you won’t get! If someone you knew, liked, trusted, and "bought," asked you to recommend them, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you be more than happy to tell others about them? Oh yes, you’d be glad to. You’d spread the word! Besides, you would look really "cool" because you would be the person who found someone so savvy, skilled, and talented! Don’t ever deprive "Ethel" of THAT feeling!

Another reason to ask: In addition to making "Ethel" look good to her friends, you are flattering her by asking for her help. When you ask for help and express your appreciation, it gives your customer the opportunity to do something nice for you. It may be a role they don’t often get to play. If someone knows that you appreciate what they did for you, they will do it over, and over again. That’s human nature. We love helping, and we love being recognized and appreciated. So ask "Ethel" to recommend you. People do not recommend you out of a sense of obligation. Get over yourself, and do it for her! It is her way of saying "Thank You."

Word of mouth is the fastest way to spread the word. It worked for Paul Revere and it’s still working today! When surveyed by the Yankelovich Monitor about how they gather information and advice about products -- 70% of consumers said that their top choice, was to ask. To "talk to someone who owns or knows about the product." Barbara Caplan of the research and polling operation of Roper Starch Worldwide, enthusiastically agrees. "Word of mouth is becoming increasingly powerful… more and more people are looking to their peers for information.”

References, according to Ross R. Reck in "Turn Your Customers Into Your Salesforce," create an impression of "like." What this means is that new customers who are referred to you will already expect to like you.

A reference affects bonding because it is a "bond." This recommendation already came from a mutual friend. In other words, you’re pre-sold. She bought you already!

Because of this "liking," and "bonding," she is giving you the benefit of the doubt, and she already trusts you. She is ready to meet you in cheerful anticipation of doing business with you.

You are "positioned." In "Strategic Marketing," Peter Johnson defines strategic positioning this way: "To definitely establish in precise terms the strategic identity, image, and reputation of your specific company ("Me, Inc.") such that in the mind of your targeted marketplace there could be no acceptable alternative anywhere.

"People need to make an association in their minds between who you are and what you do for a living. After all, they know, like, and trust you. They want to help you succeed." That’s the power of referrals! Thank you, Peter Johnson.

As an entrepreneur, especially a "guerrilla entrepreneur," your job starts when the customer signs on the dotted line. Don’t close a sale. Instead, open a relationship. An important part of opening up this relationship is to hold up your end of the agreement.

Your performance after the sale has a direct impact on your customer’s level of commitment. First and foremost, Reck points out, in preventing "buyer’s remorse." Buyer’s remorse occurs at that point in the sales process when your customer has made a commitment, yet is not sure she made a good purchase decision. She is not sure that you are going to follow through or that the product will come through for them. Do whatever is necessary so that your customer does not feel "stuck." Remorse sets in when they never hear from you again. That is their biggest fear. They are terrified that you will take their money, and vanish into furniture "never never land!"

Yes, they were kind enough to buy you. We are back to earning their trust. Customers do not become clients. They do not and will not supply you with referrals and repeat business out of obligation. Referral business is their way of saying "thank you" to you for a job well done. Referrals, like trust, have to be earned. Show her you care.

Keep her "updated on the progress of her new furniture." Don’t tell her that you’ll "check on her order." That doesn’t sound very special, does it? Let her hear from you throughout this process. She just wants to know that she has not been forgotten.

Always call after delivery. Help her finish what you started. If all she bought was upholstery and tables, then her room is not finished (she still has that moose that "Harry" shot in Montana over the mantle). Don’t leave her in the lurch. She still really needs your help. Conrad makes this point when he emphasizes that "guerrillas focus on solving problems rather than just supplying benefits. They are geared to specific solutions." They engage in the care and feeding of their clients to keep the relationship up-close, personal, and professional. Make sure she is . . . . .

  • Delighted! vs. Satisfied.
  • Ecstatic! vs. Content.
  • Thrilled! vs. Disappointed.

Remember, that this customer soon to be "client," has just became the new Vice President of Marketing for your company!
To be truly effective as an "entrepreneur" in caring and making a difference in this profession, you must become an advisor, consultant, and even a professional friend. According to "The Way of the Guerrilla," keep client relationships warm and comfortable:

  • Make the client feel unique and special.
  • Make them feel singled out.
  • Let them know that you are here for them, and that you want to be of service.
  • Make sure you stay in constant touch.
  • Make sure you exceed their expectations.

The true sign of "guerrilla entrepreneurs," is that they take their business seriously, and their clients personally. They don’t like to share. They know that when they operate in "guerrilla mode," they wipe out the competition.

To live these basic truths, you must have the soul of a guerrilla entrepreneur. You’ve got to have the patience, passion and persistence of a person who is committed to success. You will be forced, as the price of admission, to provide service that leads clients to want to make your business part of their identity. That’s the payoff of a warm relationship.

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.