Ever get that one?... you know, those well intended people who know a little about your business and suggest a company that they think you should call on. Sometimes they even give you a name and those are the ones you think have merit (who knows, maybe they got the name out of an annual report!). So you dial the number, make the call and get less than a luke warm response… so much for that “hot” referral.
I was in a program today and one of the respondents lamented about how often this happens and how, usually, it’s a waste of time. I suggested that what they need is a “filter” to determine the viability of those suggestions. The problem, while some of them are a waste of time, some of them are really good opportunities. Trying to tell the difference is the challenge.
I have found that people are always willing to put you at risk and make suggestions that have little merit. One of the best ways to “filter” the “wheat from the chaff” is to put the “referrer” at risk. Their willingness to take the risk, instead of giving it all to you, will become part of a “filter” to test the suggestion.
Here’s how it works. When you get the suggestion “you should call on…” try the following:
First, ask the referrer “why do you think I should call on them?” This becomes the first “filter”, and if they can articulate a good reason, that makes sense to you, then they have passed the first test.
Second , thank them for the information and then ask “do you plan on talking with them in the near future?” This is the second “filter” and will help to determine if they really have an ongoing relationship with the person they suggest you call. If they say something like “sure, I see him every year at the church summer picnic, we’re on opposing teams in the tug of war”… well, you get the picture.
On the other hand if you get something like “I meet with him/her at our industry executive committee meeting every month” they have passed the second filter. An ongoing relationship exists and there may be some value in the suggestion.
You’re getting closer… but let’s not make the call yet.
Third, let’s see if they are wiling to put themselves at risk. Ask them “the next time you see them could your reference our conversation, tell them about our relationship and how it has been valuable to you, and ask them if they would like to hear from me?”
If they are willing to do this they have passed the next “filter" and you have just earned yourself “an introduction” rather than just a referral. More importantly, not only will these be more likely to pay off, but this process of “filtering” will keep you from wasting time on those lame suggestions that put all the risk on you.
Next time someone says “you should call on…” you know the drill. Use the three "filters" suggested and see if they are willing to share the risk!
Action Step: Memorize the process, practice your responses and start “filtering” those referrals. You’ll use your time more effectively and get better results.