JF1146: How To Generate Referrals Without Asking #SkillsetSunday with Stacey Brown Randall
Word of mouth referrals are without a doubt the most effective lead you can get. Asking for a referral is different than when it happens organically. Stacey is here today to tell us how to make it happen organically. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Stacey Brown Randall Background:
- Referral Marketing Strategist, Business Growth Accelerator, Productivity Coach, Adjunct Professor
- Helps other in referral strategies, particularly focused in real estate
- Her online programs, VIP days and live events provide a blueprint to follow to take control of your referrals
- Based in Charlotte, North Carolina
- Say hi to her at www.growthbyreferrals.com/joe
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluff.
Well, I hope you’re having a best ever weekend. Because it is Sunday we’ve got a special segment, like we usually do, called Skillset Sunday. By the end of our conversation you’re gonna have a skill that you can go apply towards your real estate endeavors.
Today we’re going to help you learn how to generate referrals without asking, and I can tell you based on my experience in advertising prior to getting in real estate, full-time, and also in real estate now full-time, word of mouth referrals are the number one influencer of purchase intent. So listen up, Best Ever listeners, Stacey Brown Randall is going to share with us how to generate referrals without asking. Stacey, how are you doing?
Stacey Brown Randall: I’m doing great today, thanks for having me.
Joe Fairless: My pleasure. This is a topic that is important for all real estate investors, as well as to any entrepreneur, really. A little bit about Stacey – she is a referral marketing strategist, she’s a business growth accelerator and a productivity coach, as well as an adjunct professor. She is based in Charlotte, North Carolina and she’s gonna help us generate referrals without asking. With that being said, Stacey, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Stacey Brown Randall: Absolutely. The short story is this is actually my second business. I actually started a business a number years ago that failed, and when I looked back over that business and why it failed, I realized I didn’t touch business development every day in a way that was gonna work for me, so I needed to figure out a business development strategy that I would be willing to do… Because I wasn’t gonna cold call and I wasn’t gonna stalk people on LinkedIn, and I wasn’t gonna network every night.
So when I started my second business, that’s where I kind of came up with this whole strategy behind how do I generate referrals and how do I do that without asking, because asking for a referral to me feels a lot like a cold call; kind of like that red-headed stepchild, it feels like a cold call. So I needed to figure out a different way, and I did it out of necessity, because I didn’t want to have a second business that failed. From that perspective, for what I do with my clients now as I started having success with my referrals, they were like “What are you doing?” and “Teach it to me.” That’s really where my focus has become over the last couple of years – really helping service professionals and business professionals and business owners understand that you can generate referrals, you can do it in mass, you can do it with volume and you can do it without asking.
I would say, if you look at my history – my background is kind of a portfolio career; I did the corporate thing, of course, and then until I hit that business failure… The learnings from that is what’s changed everything with what I’m doing now.
Joe Fairless: So how should we structure our conversation so that by the end of this we’ll know how to generate referrals?
Stacey Brown Randall: I think the best thing is we probably need to kind of set a foundation of understanding the definitions behind leads, word of mouth buzz, introductions and referrals, and then maybe dive into some of the points that I teach folks on the best way to go about generating referrals and what are those rules you should follow, or those no-no’s that you shouldn’t do.
Joe Fairless: Yes, I love that. Let’s do it.
Stacey Brown Randall: Alright, so just to kind of give everybody an understanding, as I think it’s really important that we understand what we’re talking about, because word of mouth buzz is different from a referral, which is different from an introduction, which is different from a warm lead. So let me give you some quick high-level definitions and examples of those.
A warm lead is where someone says “Hey Joe, company ABC down the street needs your help. You should call them, and when you call them, use my name.” That’s not a referral, it’s not even an introduction, it’s not even really word of mouth buzz, it’s a warm lead. You just happen to have the person’s name to call, and you happen to have a person you can use, but it’s still like a cold call, just a little warmer.
Word of mouth buzz is what I think most people think is much like a referral. The reality of the word of mouth buzz is I would come up to you and be like “Hey Joe, were your ears burning last week? Because I was just talking to you; there’s someone who really definitely needs to call you, and I now they will.” Well, that’s great that they identified that there was a need with that person and why they needed to work with Joe, but they didn’t actually make the connection happen… So it doesn’t do anything for you. You don’t know who that person is, and if they’re not willing to connect you, it’s still just word of mouth buzz; it’s awesome and we’ll take it, but it is not a referral.
An introduction is where they say “Hey Joe, meet Stacey. Stacey, meet Joe. You guys probably should have some great synergy” or “You guys should get to know each other to grow your network.” So they make the connection for the introduction, but they don’t say why we should be meeting. So I don’t know, are you interested in what I do so you’ve been referred to me, or is this just one more person I get to meet that’s gonna grow my network? Nothing wrong with that, but a true referral has the connection that’s made to the person who has the need, by the referral source, so the prospective client is connected to you by someone (your referral source) and that referral source has already identified why they should be connected to you, why they should work with you, and states that. That is the definition of a true referral, and that’s why the close rates of referrals are higher, that’s why when you said with the introduction that it is the best way to bring in new business because people want referrals over anything else, and they’re the easiest to close because they’re less price-sensitive because they show up already valuing what you do. But you have to make sure it’s the right thing for all those pieces to fall into place.
Joe Fairless: Will you give an example of what that sounds like, what that connection is made to the person who has a need? Just what that would sound like
Stacey Brown Randall: Sure. Most of the time, I always prefer for them to come over e-mail, because I think that you are in control at that point. So when someone says “Hey Stacey, I’m having so-and-so call you”, I’m like “Yeah, why don’t you go ahead and send them an e-mail and copy me on it?” But typically, what that e-mail would say – I just got one yesterday… Literally, that e-mail comes in that says “Hey Stacey, meet Rob. Rob does this. Hey Rob, I was telling you about Stacey; Stacey does this. I think she can help you with your referrals. You guys should definitely set up time to connect, or go ahead and download some of her free resources.” So there’s already that opinion of that met need of “Hey, we’ve already talked about, Rob, why you need to be meeting with Stacey; she’s gonna help you with your referrals, and I’m connecting you with her so that she can kind of take over and facilitate the next conversation or the next meeting.”
Joe Fairless: Okay. So that’s what it is. Now, how do we do it?
Stacey Brown Randall: Here’s the first thing I have to tell folks – you’ve gotta have the right mindset, and that is there’s a couple of things you can’t do. You can’t ask for referrals and you can’t be willing to pay for referrals. Now, I know, if any of your listeners is a realtor, in their industry actually a referral feedback to another licensed realtor is common practice and it’s identified and disclosed to the client, so that’s not a big deal. What I’m talking about is the things you don’t disclose to the client, whereas you’re gonna get a kickback, you’re gonna get paid for sending someone to somebody else… Because at that point we’ve commoditized the relationship. We do the same thing when we ask. When we ask somebody to send us a referral, we’re manufacturing the need for why they should actually reach out to us, why they should actually take time to meet with us.
When we manufacture or we commoditize any piece of the referral process, then we’ve cheapened it. If you think about commoditizing it, if I’m getting paid to send you referrals, actually what you’re asking me to do is just to work for you… And I have a full-time job. I don’t need to be doing work for anybody else, unless that’s a relationship I’m willing to enter into and there are guidelines and things in writing that needs to then be disclosed to the people I may be referring to you.
The other part of that is that when we pay or we ask, when you think about that ask, I’m asking you to do something you hadn’t thought of before. That’s why when we ask people “Hey, who do you know who needs what I do?”, if you’re in a face-to-face meeting with them, you literally see them shift in their seats; they literally pull back in their seats. You’ve probably been a part of that, right Joe?
Joe Fairless: Yeah…
Stacey Brown Randall: You’ve probably been in a meeting like that. They either slide the blank sheet of paper across the table to you and you’re like “Can you write down ten people who are just like you, who need to do work with me?” Or they just come to you and say “Who’s like you that I need to be doing business with?” and you literally see them lean back in their chairs, or they start to shift uncomfortably. That is literally their physical reaction to what you just asked, and they are trying to distance themselves from what you just asked them to do. The truth is it’s because you’re asking them for something that they’re not maybe willing to do, or they don’t want to do, or you didn’t set it up correctly.
I always tell folks, I don’t teach anybody how to ask, but I do teach folks in my online program and in some of my live events, I do teach folks how to plant referral seeds so that I don’t have to ask, and I know I’ll come up top of mind when that situation presents itself.
I think the question most people always ask themselves is “Okay fine, but does that mean I’m gonna generate any level of volume?” I’m like, “If you know the language to plant the seeds and you have the right group of folks that are your referral sources and you follow a process to stay consistently in touch with them year in and year out, yes, you can definitely generate volume.” I know in my practice from the very first year that I started out as a business coach I generated over 100 referrals and I’ve done that every year consistently.
In my first year as a business coach — and my first business had nothing to do with business coaching – I generated 112 referrals following this process. It’s just a process, right? But you have to have the pieces that fit, so that you know what to do so you’re not having to ask, you’re not having to do anything else that would put you in a position to cheapen the relationships you have with people.
So we don’t ask and we don’t pay, but there’s a few other things we also have to make sure we have in place too, and that is that your client experience and the work you do – it can’t be choppy. You’ve gotta deliver a quality product or quality service… Because nobody refers crappy work, but even in this day and age nobody refers average work either. So you’ve gotta elevate that experience.
Joe Fairless: One quick follow-up question – the 112 referrals you got in your first year, looking back on it, what was the difference between the conversion rate for those 112 that were referred to you versus the leads that you got from other sources?
Stacey Brown Randall: I would say in my first year, when you’re thinking about those 112 referrals, the other source that brought in a number of new clients for me was my speaking engagements. I would say in my first year, at the end of that first year, I was in the 60% range of closing on referrals, and the other 40% of my client base came through because they saw me speak. Maybe not a full 40%, because there were still some people who just knew me from my past life and just hired me because they knew me. So there’s definitely some percentages in there.
Now I’m at the point where a couple years later I’m more in the 90% rate of my clients coming through referrals, which means my close rates have gotten better because I learned different language. It’s really fascinating – when you go any type of sales training, there’s like a script they teach you when you’re in that first meeting with that person – identify their pain, figure out if you’re the fit… And what I realized is when someone was referred to me, the questions I asked and how I handled those conversations were entirely different. And when I figured that out, like “Oh, right, you actually already want to buy what I have; you already wanna buy me, I’ve just gotta figure out how to get you to that place by asking different types of questions.” When I figured that kind of language out, then my close rate definitely went up.
I’ve also gotten better at training my referral sources on the right type of person to send to me, so I think that’s increased me from like a 60% to more of like a 90%-95% close rate from where my clients come from.
Joe Fairless: Okay. And you said language, right group of people that you’re speaking to, and training them on who you’d like to be referred to, and the process. Can you elaborate on those three?
Stacey Brown Randall: Sure. So I always tell folks, I believe that this system works best – it can work with a lot of different folks, but I believe this system works best when you’ve been in business for at least a year or two, and you have clients already that you’re working with, and we have to identify where those clients came from, and how they arrived. If they were referred to you, that’s where we start with your referral sources.
My referral sources are from clients that have referred to me, and the centers of influence (COIs) that have referred to me, which basically means they’ve just never done business with me, but they know what I do. So it’s cultivating enough of those people to generate the type of volume you need.
Whereas I may have 20 or so folks in that category, that are sending me referrals – some of them only send me one or two a year, and some of them send me double digits, like 10, 11, 12 a year… That’s enough to give me what I need for my business. But relate that to an attorney that I work with that can only take 12 cases a year, and we got her referrals up from six or seven a year to averaging about 27 to 30 a year. Now, she gets to pick and choose the cases that she takes, because she’s only still gonna take on about 12 cases a year, she just wanted an easier way for those cases to fall into her lap, so to speak.
So it’s figuring out who already refers you, and if you don’t have enough of those people who should be referring you, and then building out a relationship with them; that’s really the process I teach in my online program and my live events – what are the steps we take, what’s the process we take so that we know we’re doing something consistently that matters, that’s memorable and meaningful, and is all about the referral source, nothing about us…? Because nobody actually refers to us because of us; they refer to us because they know somebody who has a need, and they wanna be the hero to help that person solve their problem, and I am the right solution.
Joe Fairless: That’s a money line right there, they refer to us because they know people who have the problem, and — what did you just say? I don’t wanna butcher what you just said… [laughs]
Stacey Brown Randall: No, you’re doing great! So basically, we have to remember who’s the hero in the referral story, and the hero is the referral source, because they know the person with the problem, and they wanna be a hero to the person who has the problem, the prospective client. The fact that I happen to be the best solution is just bonus and benefit.
Joe Fairless: So it’s not saying in your e-mail “If you like this, please share with your friends”, it’s focusing on that person delivering the outstanding work, but then identifying the right people who can refer you to their friends, and then making them the star of the show by doing memorable things for them… Is that correct?
Stacey Brown Randall: Correct, and then doing it on a year-long basis, because that way you know if you’re gonna have enough touch points, if you bill out what you’re going to do. You can manage your budget better that way, and you can manage your calendar better that way if you know what you’re gonna do for a full year.
But what I’m not talking about, and Joe, I think a lot of people get this wrong – I’m not talking about your newsletter; that does not count.
Joe Fairless: Right.
Stacey Brown Randall: I’m not talking about the fact that you’ll send them out an e-newsletter or you’ll happen to see them at a couple of networking events and so you’ll strategize time to go to talk to them… I’m talking about people who make your life easier because they draw clients into your lap; what is that worth to you and how valuable is that to you? In some cases it depends on how much a client spends with you, but I had one client drop a client in my lap that was worth 20k. I will do a few things above and beyond just sending them a thank you note or a thank you e-mail.
Joe Fairless: What do you do?
Stacey Brown Randall: There’s two secret sauces to what I teach – it’s the language that I teach; for most folks, there’s usually about nine different situations where there’s this particular strict or messaging I want you to know, so that’s one piece of the secret sauce.
The second piece of the secret sauce is what I call this “referral experience.” Any person who refers to you, they should feel like they’re important to you, and you put them through an experience. That experience is something that’s memorable and meaningful, and I tell folks, it follows three platinum principles… And then I’ll give you some examples.
So the platinum principles are – first, anything you do is all about them. If I send you a water bottle with my logo on it, Joe, who’s that about?
Joe Fairless: Yeah, who cares?
Stacey Brown Randall: Right, that’s about me. “Woohoo, my logo!”, right? So for instance, this is an example I use a lot, because I think it makes the point the easiest – a lot of my referral sources are working parents, so I recognize Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Of course, I have referral sources and client sources that are not parents, so obviously I do something different for them. But if they’re a working parent, if they own a business, they’re working, and they send me referrals, on Mother’s Day they get recognized. Last year I sent a Wonder Woman water bottle to each of my top referral sources, and a card on it just said “Never forget you are a hero! Happy Mother’s Day! Stacey.” And when they took the card off, there was nothing on that water bottle to say Stacey sent that. My logo wasn’t printed on the back, it wasn’t on the bottom, it wasn’t on the top, but they never forget that I am the one who gave them that water bottle, because it was memorable and meaningful, and I was acknowledging something about them that I know, because you should know your referral sources well. You should know if they’re a parent or not, you should know the type of business that they’re in, you should know the type of clients they’re interested in bring in to their business… Or whatever their needs are.
You should know things about them so that you can provide an experience for them, which is done, and that experience is done whether it’s face-to-face time that you spend with them grabbing coffee or lunch, helping them grow their business, or it’s events that you may invite them to so they can grow their network and meet other people, it could be gifts that you do, it could be something you mail, like a thank you card or a “I appreciate you” kind of card. It could also be something that you e-mail – “I saw this article, I thought of you”, but it’s all about them, through all those things that you do, and then we just build it out over a year so we know we’re not doing too much and we’re not doing too little… Because platinum principle number one says it has to be all about them.
The platinum principle number three says it’s gotta keep you top of mind. And then platinum principle number two is you have to be comfortable doing it.
An example I always give is I worked with a financial advisor and he said “You know what, Stacey, I will do just about anything you tell me to do, but if I have to take people to a bunch of dinners or a bunch of events that are after hours, in the evenings, I’m not doing it. Because at five o’clock, when it rolls around, I wanna go home and be a dad, and I wanna be a coach with my kids in their sports teams, or be in there with them after school”, and I said okay… So if we built something for him that was all these evening things — well, first of all he wouldn’t have done it, and second of all, he would have every right to fire me, because I wouldn’t have given him what he needed.
Joe Fairless: What’s an example of what you did with him?
Stacey Brown Randall: I have to learn a little bit about folks when we’re crafting these things, whether they’re in the online course or not; I give them things to think about to help them figure out what this looks like. For him, he happened to have told me that he loves to eat at off the beaten path locations. He loves finding that new restaurant, or that ethnic restaurant that no one’s really tried, and taking people to them. So we put that in as a part of his process, but also he loves baseball, so doing at our minor league stadium that we happen to have here in town [unintelligible [00:19:53].27] where he brought all his referral sources and they got to bring a spouse or someone with them… So that was part of what we did. He had the budget for it.
I have some folks who come to me and they’re like “I have no money.” I’m like “Okay, we can do this on a shoestring, it’s not a problem. It looks different, but it’s not a problem.” So you just have to be willing to figure out what is it that you are willing to do, but more importantly, what is it that those referral sources want or need, and then how do we build that out so that you stay top of mind throughout the year in a memorable and meaningful way, so that it feels authentic and genuine, because it should be. Because if you’re trying to do this to buy referrals from someone by buttering them up, they can tell. It has to be real. And if you’re doing it and it feels okay to you, then it’s probably real.
That’s why those platinum principles are so key and everything we build is around those three principles.
Joe Fairless: What are some other examples that you or your clients have done throughout the year to stay top of mind in a memorable and meaningful way?
Stacey Brown Randall: I have one client that is a fire and safety company, and they do this for their referral sources, but also for their clients, because they’re all in that fire and safety world… And apparently sometime in March – I don’t know the exact date – there is a national day known as Near Miss Day; I would not know anything about this. There’s lots of national calendars and whacky holidays calendars out there. When people go through my course they get a copy of one, because sometimes it’s those things that make you most memorable and meaningful… It’s like “What’s a whacky day that connects somehow to my business that I can do something for?” I have had people pick some crazy things. Ask me in a minute and I’ll tell you what someone did for National Pickle Day.
But for this particular client, because they’re in the fire and safety world, they’re all about safety and protection and that’s what they do with their clients… So there’s this thing called Near Miss Day, which is I guess when an asteroid almost hit the Earth, but it missed us. It’s back from the 1980’s I think, but it’s known as Near Miss Day. So for Near Miss Day they were gonna send Earth squeezy balls to everybody, with a story of Near Miss Day and why they’re celebrating it, and “Thanks for using us. We don’t want near misses”, but then also the referral source says “Thanks for sending us to other folks, that we can help them out with their safety, so they don’t have a Near Miss Day.” So they just tied it all in, and it worked for them to do it that way.
Joe Fairless: Okay. And the pickle thing? Obviously, I have to ask you about that now. [laughs]
Stacey Brown Randall: We have a National Pickle Day sometime in October or November. The things I now know because my clients tell me… I’m like “Fascinating!” It’s funny, because this person is a coach that helps people figure out if they want to become entrepreneurs in a franchise model system. This client, she was thinking [unintelligible [00:22:24].06] whole referral process and she was like [unintelligible [00:22:26].08] and I was like “Cool!”, so she came up with National Pickle Day.
Basically, she had it much more clever than I’m about to say, but it was something to the effect of “I think pickles don’t get their due. National Pickle Day is overlooked, everybody only cares about November (because she mentioned Thanksgiving, or something). Other major holidays overshadow this very important day and I wanna bring it to the forefront, so I want you to celebrate National Pickle Day with me”, and she sent — there’s an herb that you have to put in with cucumbers to turn them into pickles, and she literally sent that as the gift with the recipe about how to do this to make your own pickles for pickle day. Again, I kind of butchered what her note said, because I don’t remember – it was a while back – but it was really funny.
And then I have a homebuilder that happens to know how to juggle. Well, in June it’s National Juggling Day, so he did a video of himself juggling hammers, because he can juggle… He know what he’s doing. He can juggle, so he’s juggling hammers, because hammers/homebuilding fits together, and he was saying something cute like “This is National Juggling Day. I bet you didn’t know that, as your builder, I could juggle. Thanks for your business” and then for his referral sources, “Thanks for always sending clients my way.”
Joe Fairless: And that’s part of the language? Even if they’ve never sent new clients, you’re just assuming that they have and you’re implying that they already have and then they might be compelled to do so?
Stacey Brown Randall: It’s how we word it, yes. It’s something to that effect. If they have sent a referral, we never miss an opportunity to thank them for that, either by a person they referred to us, or just to say “Thanks for sending all the referrals over the years.” If they haven’t, we use just a little bit of a different language, and it’s more so the token of “We love helping the people that you know and care about.” So it’s not like we’re necessarily doing a presumptive close in that type of language, but we are planting the seed.
Joe Fairless: Great stuff. I love how you’ve torn down the typical paradigm for how to get referrals and you’ve built up from the center focus of the actual referrer, and not about us and our business, but it’s about them and making them the star of the show.
Where can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you?
Stacey Brown Randall: I put together a page just for your listeners to make it easy for them. They can go to GrowthByReferrals.com/joe and they’ll be able to download some of those no-no’s I was talking about in the beginning about not asking and not paying. I call them “The Seven Deadly Sins Of Generating Referrals.” They can download that on that page, and then if they’re interested and wanna join the Facebook group, it’s called Referrals Without Asking; it’s an awesome, active community. I answer every question that’s asked personally, but the community’s great about answering questions, too.
Then also I have challenges like “Five days to jumpstart your referrals.” That challenge is free and I do it throughout the year. So they can sign up for those different things, learn more about me before they decide to dig and decide “Hey, do I actually wanna work with Stacey or do I actually wanna go to one of her live events or join her online course?” That’s the best place to just kind of start to understand my philosophy, to decide if you wanna learn more.
Joe Fairless: Stacey, thank you for being on the show and, as I mentioned earlier, identifying the best way to grow our business through referrals, and tactically how to do that. First, we need to know the lifetime value of a customer, because that will help us determine what type of ongoing meaningful and memorable approach are we going to take, whether it is doing the [unintelligible [00:25:34].20] thing with the spouses, or maybe it’s just juggling some hammers, or anything in between.
Then also what things we should say or should not say, and how we should never end a water bottle with our logo on it, because it’s not about us, and I think that’s the main takeaway for me, but then also tactically how you approach it. I’ve got a page of notes and I’m gonna be looking back on this and listen to this interview again.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever weekend, Stacey, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Stacey Brown Randall: Thanks again, Joe.