At rung 3 on the awareness ladder, your prospect becomes aware of your particular offer. They are close to sitting down and discussing your offer in depth. How do you move from rung 2 to rung 3? Oddly referrals are a collaborative tool you can use.
Mostly we depend on our own devices. We have a sales funnel, nurture people in it and encourage more people to join in. We do this through business networking, following up contacts and online techniques, mainly social media.
One effective route is referrals. By referrals we mostly mean referrals from customers or prospects in our sales funnel. But another powerful source is close competitors. Why on earth would they refer prospects to us and when should we refer ours to them?
Referrals Build Trust
Early sales conversations are an ideal opportunity to turn your prospect’s attention to someone else. This is not deflecting potential troublemakers to someone else (they should be dropped). It is seeking what’s best for the prospect.
Where close competitors collaborate, they learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, where they’ve an affinity for particular client needs. A prospect who approaches you has made an initial judgement that you can help them.
If you understand their needs you can point them in the right direction. After all, you know your business better than they do.
Such a referral, well made, pleases both the prospect and your collaborator. It builds trust with both and encourages either to make referrals to you.
Referrals Deliver Best Service
It’s not solely about trust. It’s ensuring prospects receive the best possible service. No-one is better positioned to do this than a group of close collaborators with detailed knowledge of each other’s work. Matching the prospect to the best provider raises the reputation of not only two businesses but also the trade as a whole.
This is important because the prospect is unlikely to ask for a referral. They say yes or no to you (and may or may not mean it) but they won’t ask for a referral for fear of causing offence.
For example, some of my prospects are really seeking a copywriter. I know several excellent local copywriters. Once I explain my coaching offer, I ask them whether this is what they seek or suggest they might prefer a copywriter. This is an excellent way to discern whether they are interested in my offer. Instead they can accept my offer of a referral. If they say they are interested in my offer, they are more likely to move to a sale.
Sometimes collaboration with someone else might be a good solution. This would not a joint venture, simply a one-off collaboration over one customer.
This is not something to suggest lightly because it may mean you and your collaborator must design something completely new for one customer. Perhaps if it works out, you have the basis for a more permanent relationship but this may be exceptional.
There are various ways to arrange this. Sub-contract to a collaborator, ask them to act as a mentor to you for aspects of the contract where they have expertise or seek full shared responsibility.
With a new initiative, it may be best to discuss arrangements with the collaborator before you make an offer and the prospect may want to meet the collaborator before they make a final decision. These delays may mean the prospect moves on while they are waiting, which is likely to be frustrating to all concerned. For this reason, is it worth agreeing basic plans before suggesting such an arrangement to a prospect.
Such arrangements amount to endorsement of your competitors. Endorsements are in themselves another area of collaboration and we’ll look at that next week.