051: Stacey Brown Randall on getting Referrals (without asking)

Stacey Brown Randall has a system for what so many of us rely on to get business: referrals.

She got there as many of us do, through failing after she started her first business, doing HR consulting. She got her clients through networking and “hustle” and had to work too hard. She’s land clients like KPMG, do the work, and then realize she was starting at the beginning again. That’s an OK way to start, but it’s not sustainable, and 4 years later, she was on the same “feast or famine” roller coaster.

I also got brave and did video for this episode, so you can watch that, if you prefer…

In addition, while Stacey knew her stuff and could deliver for clients, she wasn’t a salesperson, even with a corporate background in sales and marketing. Having conversations and turning them into clients wasn’t the problem, it was getting the conversations in the first place.

Looking back on the failed business, she realized that the only referral she got was after she had already shut down the business.

Researching how to get referrals, it all seemed so cheesy and unprofessional. She didn’t want to ask, pay, or be cheesy.

She realized she needed better referrals when she launched her coaching business and got over 100 referrals in the first year (as she has done every since). She had something like 30 referrals sources, some of whom sent double digit referrals. And she did this without any testimonials or case studies.

She also realized that she had to do some business development every day. She didn’t want to do the networking circuit, especially with a young family (tell me about it).

Then people started asking her how she got so many referrals (without asking) and she realized she had something to teach.

Referrals, Introductions, and Word-of-Mouth

What does a “referral” mean, and how is it different from an introduction and word-of-mouth? Referrals have both of these components:

  1. Involve a personal connection that transfers trust. (An introduction.)
  2. Identified need, in other words, the prospect is in buying mode. (Word-of-mouth)

5 Step Process for Referrals

Note– for this to work, you have to do great work which makes you referrable. (This is the subject of Stacey’s second book, Sticky Client Experiences, which she’s working on now.)

To prove this, you must have received a referral (preferably several).

Assuming those are true…

  1. Identify your referral sources. Do it once– it will take a lot of time, but you only have to do it once. (Easy if you have the right CRM.) Who refers you clients. Stacey says that this list is your business’s biggest asset. (I didn’t know Stacey was going to say this when I interviewed her– but you should check out the Referrals screen in the Mimiran CRM.) You’ll probably have a few reactions to this list.
    1. I want more referral sources.
    2. Who are the people I spend a lot of time with who don’t refer me anyone.
    3. Who are the people who refer me business that I don’t talk to enough.
  2. Every time you receive a referral, hand write a thank you note, that is very specific about why you are thanking them– mention which referral you are talking about– even if your handwriting is terrible (ahem!). Take care of your referral sources– they keep you from having to eat rubber chicken dinners!
  3. Have an annual plan for outreach to make your memorable and top-of-mind. Do 4-8 touches per year. This is NOT a newsletter or sending swag. (For example, Stacey realized that most of her referral sources were parents, so she recognized them on Mothers’ Day with a Wonder Woman water bottle.)
  4. Plant referral seeds. Use the right language. Your touch point details will dictate the language, but be authentic.
  5. Create a process that you can execute.

Note that referral sources don’t have to be mutual.

Also note that how many referrals you need will depend on what you sell and your capacity for bringing on clients. For example, if you need 30 new clients per year, and you’re getting 10 referrals from 6 sources, you probably want to double your referral sources. Look at your referrals over the past 3 years (if you have that data).

Never forget that the referral source isn’t doing it for you– they are doing it for their friend, so they can be the hero to them.

The Wine & Beer

I got to enjoy some Sojourn Pinot Noir from Sonoma California (getting a bit fancy with the pandemic and all), and Stacey had one of the 2 remaining Coors Lights in her house. (We could have gone on longer, because this is such a great topic, but I didn’t want her to run out of beer completely.)


Where to find Stacey…

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com, the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”, (Mimiran also makes it easy to track and grow referrals). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

046 What I’ve Learned this Decade

Since this episode is coming out in the middle of the holidays, I didn’t want to bury a guest in here. 😉

So here’s a different kind of episode, reflecting on the past decade and some of the things I’ve learned.

The Wine

Chateau Bellevue Bordeaux, 2015. Yum.


listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Also, if you can get a free “fill in the blank” hero proposal template. Remember, a proposal is a story, not a brochure.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

044 John Livesay on Better Selling through Storytelling

John Livesay

John Livesay becomes the second guest to return to Sales for Nerds (catch his earlier episode on how to pitch here). Now he’s back to talk about “Better Selling through Storytelling”, which of course is the name of his new book.

In this episode, John goes into why storytelling is so important (it’s how we actually learn and communicate, not just by dumping facts on people), and how to do it effectively. In particular, John goes into:

Story Structure

Each story has a framework.

  • Exposition (the who, what, when, where, why)
  • The problem– if there’s no problem, there’s no drama
  • The solution
  • And the resolution– what life is like after the solution

How to Move up the “5 I’s” Ladder (whether in sales or in the dating world)

  • Invisible
  • Insignificant
  • Interesting
  • Intriguing
  • Irresistible

Note that most small business are stuck on the first 2 rungs.

The way to move up the ladder is to tell stories (you may have heard them called “case studies”) about one person so that other people can see themselves in the story. These stories will find their way to your buyers and pull them in if you do a good job.

Of course, this means picking your niche so that your story resonates with the other people in that niche. Don’t worry about going too narrow (this should sound familiar from Aaron Ross’s advice on nailing your niche). Your story will still resonate, just not as powerfully, with nearby niches. This is still better than telling a more generic story that applies to everyone, but resonates with no one.

To all the way to the top of the ladder, John (of course) tells the story of meeting Michael Phelps, and how his coach asked if he was willing to train on Sundays. When Michael said that we he was, the coach said, “great, now we have 52 more training sessions than the other swimmers.” This is John’s way of getting us to think about what we can do or offer that no one else can.

Weaving stories together

The buyer wants to see their story in your story about other buyers. They also need to know your story (although we typically focus too much on this part, and not enough on the others). So how do we weave these stories together?

First consider 3 unspoken questions a prospect has. Not: do I know, like, and trust you? But: do I trust, like, and know you? In other words, do I trust you enough to even listen to anything you have to say? Then, do I like you enough to want to listen? And finally, moving from the gut, to the heart, to the head, do I know you (and that you can do the job)?

If you can do that, you can use the case study to weave the stories together.

In this age of more and more information and technology, storytelling is more important than ever, but in John’s view, everyone can be a good storyteller.

Handling the negatives

Don’t get put off by objections– they are buying signals. And don’t forget that it’s not the job of your prospects, strangers, or even your kids to make you feel good. As John writes, “that’s why they call it self-esteem.”

Side note: some slides I often like to use:

The Wine (& Whisky)

John enjoys some Stag’s Leap Chardonnay.

Earlier that morning, I’d had a wisdom tooth out. They told me to avoid alcohol for a couple of days (not because of any health issues, but because it would hurt). I was tempted to just skip having a drink with John, but that didn’t seem right. I also didn’t want to open a bottle of wine if it was too painful to drink. So I decided to have a sip of whisky as a test. All good. So I had a glass of Caol Ila Islay 12 year old scotch.

(I was trying extra hard to concentrate and felt that I wasn’t doing a great job, but John said it was a good conversation.)

Where to find John…

Better Selling through storytelling cover

Get John’s book: Better Selling through Storytelling

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Also, if you can get a free “fill in the blank” hero proposal template. Remember, a proposal is a story, not a brochure.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

043 Oscar Trimboli on Deep Listening

This is a bit of a different episode, but bear with me. Oscar Trimboli is not a “sales” expert, or a “marketing” expert, or any of the usual experts you’ll find on this podcast. He’s a “deep listening” expert. What does that even mean? And what does it mean for you?

First, consider the time and effort you’ve put into communication. Speaking, writing, presenting. Maybe not as much time and effort as we’d like, but consider how much time and energy have you invested in learning to listen?

Listening is more important that talking, but most of us have no formal training in how to listen. The good news is that you can listen to this episode (no pun intended) and get some great training that will help you be more effective at work and at life.

In this episode, learn:

  • How Oscar learned to be good at cards despite being bad at math.
  • How he decided to focus his career on deep listening.
  • Why deep listening is essential for good sales and marketing
  • How to shorten the sales cycle
  • The 4 listening villains (The Dramatizer, The Interrupter, The Lost Listener, and The Shrewd Listener)
  • The simple reason we have to listen deeply– the rates of speaking (125 words per minute), listening (400 words per minute) and thinking (up to 900 words per minute) are different– so there’s always something unsaid going through the speaker’s mind. You might only be getting 11% of the picture.
  • Listen for code words that show that speaker is getting to thoughts originally unspoken, like “I’ve just realized…” or “what I forgot to mention is…”
  • Deep listening is actually about helping the speaker get their real thoughts out.
  • Why you don’t want to start with “why?” questions, start with “how?” and “what?” (reminiscent of advice Craig Elias gave in Episode 36).
  • Listen to the silence– give your conversation partner time to think
  • The 5 Layers of meaning:
    • Listening to yourself
    • Listening to content (this is where most listening advice starts, forgetting how important it is to get yourself in the right place)
    • Listening for context
    • Listening for what’s unsaid
    • Listening for meaning
  • Simple advice for becoming a better listener: turn off your screens (including mental browser tabs), and take 3 deep breaths so you can slow down and focus on listening.

If you like this episode, check out the Deep Listening podcast and the Deep Listening book (and the box set that includes the cards)

The Wine

I’m enjoying some Qupé Syrah from Santa Barbara County. Oscar is the designated driver, both for his wine-loving relatives and on this podcast.

I enjoyed some Loveblock (that does not sound right, does it?) Sauvignon Blank from New Zealand (taste much better than the name). 😉

Where to find Oscar…

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

038: Liston Witherill on growing your consulting practice beyond referrals

Liston got his start in environmental engineering, and picked up a lot of sales and marketing expertise along the way. He started freelancing as a digital marketer (“I knew enough to be dangerous”) and started an agency.

However, as marketing scales, it becomes less about individual people and more about numbers. He missed the one-on-one interaction, so he started his current venture, to help consultants scale their practices, making him a great fit for Sales for Nerds, since that’s really the whole mission of the podcast.

In this episode, learn:

  • About Liston’s life work: understanding how people make decisions and why.
  • The three types of consulting founders (and why all of them rely on sales to make money).
  • Which is why you need to invest in sales and marketing the same way you invest in your craft.
  • How you can be more proactive in generating referrals and word-of-mouth type sales, instead of waiting passively for that business to come to you.
  • How to use inbound and outbound strategies together, and why they are both important.
  • To quote @garyvee, “Businesses won’t survive unless they’re media companies.” (Or, as I wrote a couple years ago, every company is a media company.)
  • How to deal with your fear of entering the media world.
  • The one critical thing you need more of to get more clients.
  • Liston’s simple, attainable, really strong outbound sales strategy that you can start doing right now.
  • How to handle inbound inquiries better.
  • Much, much more…


The Wine Whisky

Liston brings some Kentucky bourbon– Ri(1) (pronounced Rye-one).

I was all out of Lagavulin, perhaps my favorite Scotch, but I did have some Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition laying around, which brings a bit more sherry flavor to the peaty intensity of Lagavulin. I think this is probably the most expensive bottle I’ve featured on the podcast, although on a per-serving basis, whisky is a pretty good value. 😉

And, if you’re in Portland and like whisk{e}y, Liston recommends the Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library, where just the Scotch section of the menu runs 20 pages.


Where to find Liston:

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

037: Rick Middlemass on Sales Psychology

Rick Middlemass

Rick is the VP of Sales and Marketing for National Association of Sales Professionals, so he’s like an uber meta-sales person, but that’s not how he started. He got a summer internship knocking on doors for a painting company. Learn about his journey, and hear Rick’s insights on sales psychology, including:

  • Why you’re a sales professional if you’re a business owner.
  • What he learned his first day doing door-to-door sales as an introvert, and how you can use it when dealing with your own inner psychology.
  • How Rick became the #1 sales rep for a Cisco integrator, outselling many people who had been there long before him.
  • How much time to give yourself to do research before a call.
  • How information gets conveyed (55% body language, 38% tone, 7% words). This is why talking on the phone loses so much information.
  • (Check out the show Lie to Me for more on how body language reveals a lot about us.)
  • The importance of finding mentors, and why it’s not as hard as you think.
  • Pre-framing (don’t just punt it to the prospect), re-framing (getting back on track), and de-framing (backing out gracefully if there isn’t a fit) are 3 great skills to learn.
  • Learn to ask questions gently, but persistently.
  • Sales is not about directing, it’s about aligning and redirecting. (Don’t attack someone, they will put up a wall.)
  • The one thing Rick would like people to fix: don’t focus on yourself.


The Wine

Rick brings some innovation to Sales for Nerds by having champagne.

I make a move to Burgundy with Chateau de Santenay Bourgogne Pinot Noir, which is definitely more earthy than the California Pinot I often drink, but still accessible and it doesn’t have the deep earth flavors some people don’t enjoy.

Where to find Rick:


listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

036: Craig Elias on Trigger Event Selling and More

Craig Elias

Craig started as a computer science major and ended up one of the top sales people in Canada, with a best-selling sales book to his name.

How did this happen? And what can you learn from this for your business (and your life)?

In this episode, learn:

  • What’s considered a mild winter in Calgary.
  • How he jump started his sales career, even though he didn’t seem qualified on paper. (And how he reflected on this later and the realization it led to.)
  • Craig’s primary sales philosophy: How do I become the first person people call when they have a problem?
  • Where to look for great sales reps.
  • Why he had a lot of price objections when he started, and what he did about it.
  • What he did after he joined WorldCom just as 9/11 was happening, and then, after he became their top sales rep, what happened when everyone realized the execs had committed accounting fraud. It was the first time no one would buy from him.
  • Craig’s 3 big epiphanies about sales:
    • The Window of Disatisfaction
    • Trigger Events (and typical examples)
    • Analyzing wins (and why it’s more important than the typical sales advice of “even if you lose the deal, don’t lose the lesson”)
  • Why you need to use verbs instead of nouns (with some great examples from trucking companies to marriages), and what you want to hear as a response.
  • Why you want to ask “how?” and “what?” rather than “why?” questions (speaking of advice that can also apply to marriages).
  • Why Craig ended up living on Yerba Buena Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay (I always wondered who actually lived there whenever I drove over the Bay Bridge).
  • And much, much more. Even though I had read Craig’s book, I learned a ton, and I think you will, too.

The Wine

After my forced experiment with rosé in the last episode, I’m back to reds with Parducci True Grit Reserve Petite Syrah 2014 from California, while Craig enjoyed some Tom Gore 2016 Cab, his favorite California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Where to find Craig:

Craig’s Book:

Shift! Harness the Trigger Events that Turn Prospects into Customers

Other books mentioned in the episode:

Consultative Selling, by Mack Hanan.

Spin Selling, by Neil Rackham. Craig says that chapter 4 in particular is the best 30 pages written about sales.

And, my weakness in Russian literature is obvious. The quote about happy families is not from Dostoyevsky. It’s Tolstoy– in fact it’s the beginning of Anna Karenina:

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

035: Joy Beatty on Engineering the Sales Process

JoyBeattyJoy Beatty insists she is not a VP of Sales. Or Marketing. Even though she runs both teams for Seilevel, a requirements consulting firm that helps companies complete big software project successfully by actually having the right requirements in place. (For people who have never been involved in these big projects, this probably sounds crazy. For people who have, you know how important it is.)

How does she reconcile this: “I don’t see myself in sales. I see myself as a problem-solver.” One thing she can do is put a process in place. So that’s what she did, to great success. Learn how she did that, and how you can do the same thing, without being a world class sales expert, including

  • How she never wanted to run sales, and thought it was a terrible idea.
  • How she applied Sandler concepts (including some learned from Adam Boyd from Episode 3), not only to sales, but also to consulting, including the use of upfront contracts and making it safe to say “no.” (“I don’t feel like I’m doing sales, and I guess that’s why it’s working.”)
  • Why they don’t use quotas.
  • How to get opportunities unstuck.
  • How they defined the sales process (and how you can do it quickly if you’re not sure where to start).
  • How to get people to change and use the new process.
  • How Joy applies requirements consulting techniques to simplify sales reporting.
  • How to keep yourself accountable if you’re doing sales in addition to your “day job.”
  • Joy shares a tip she learned from me (!) about picking up the phone.

Here’s an example of working on the sales process:

Working on the sales process

 

 

The Wine

Aime Roquesante Rose 2017

Joy brought some Aimé Roquesante rosé. I am trying to broaden my horizons, but I have to admit I’m having some trouble here. If you’re a rosé fan, don’t let me deter you.

Where to find Joy:

Books by Joy:


Visual Models for Software Requirements, with Anthony Chen

 

 

Software Requirements, 3rd Edition with Karl Wiegers (Microsoft Press, like Code Complete).

 

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

034: Terry Hansen on preventing objections in the sales cycle

Terry HansenTerry is the President of Hansen Group Company, a sales performance improvement firm, and the creator of Hansen University, an online training platform with over 60 hours of online courses for sales professionals and sales managers. For over a decade, Terry has helped enterprises, nonprofits and startups find more prospects, close more deals, and retain customers longer. Terry and his wife have 5 kids, so that might be an even more impressive insight into his organizational skills. 😉

Like most people on this podcast, Terry never thought he’d end up in sales, let alone a sales trainer. A gymnast in high school, Terry ended up working as a stunt performer at Disneyland.

He almost ran off to join the circus. Literally. But with a young family, he needed more reliable work, so he tried sales. And was terrible at it. It took him years to figure it out (although less time than me).

He realized that most of his peers in the sales group had a really polished pitch, so he created his own. Only to realize that the really successful sales reps were much more about listening than talking. Today’s buyers already have a lot of information– they don’t need a feature dump.

Terry also realized that it’s really hard to overcome objections (despite the extensive sales literature on this topic). It’s much better to prevent those objections earlier in the sales process.

Terry realized that while their are lots of possible objections, they basically boil down to 4 main issues:

  1. Motivation. How much pain or urgency is there?
  2. Budget and money.
  3. Authority to get the deal done.
  4. The product/service/solution itself.

The PIMAT Framework. Use Terry’s framework to remember what you need to have a qualified deal:

  • Problem.
  • Impact.
  • Money.
  • Authority.
  • Technical.

Forget about overcoming objections– prevent them, instead. Grab your free PIMAT scorecard from Terry.

 

 

The wine (and more)

Sinergia Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Reuben enjoyed a Los Frailes Sinergia Cabernet Sauvignon from 2014. It’s an organic wine, that started with a strong “this is an organic wine” taste (can someone tell me what that is?), but having a glass the day after I opened it, that taste was mostly gone, and what was left was a very smooth cab (I would have thought it was a different grape, if you’d asked me).

Terry doesn’t drink alcohol, so he had something much less healthy– the famous chocolate milk with potato flakes from Reed’s Dairy. It sounds like some kind of Idaho joke, and I’ve never had it, but those who have swear the use of the potato flakes improves the taste and texture over regular chocolate milk and people who have visited can develop cravings.
bottle_0002_oban-14yo

Where to find Terry:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

How to Nail Your Proposals (on the Predictable Revenue Podcast)

I had a lot of fun talking about proposals with Collin Stewart, co-CEO of Predictable Revenue (along with Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue, who did an interview on Sales for Nerds earlier to talk about that and his new book From Impossible to Inevitable). Collin was a good sport about me beating up on his proposal (he had sent me an example before the interview, and I had taken out my proverbial red pen). I hope I was as good a sport about my poor outbound sales skills. 😉

Anyway, check it out.

Here are the show notes, including iTunes link, etc, on PredictableRevenue.com.

And here are the resources mentioned in the episode (including a discount on the    Sales for Nerds Proposal Online Course).