Question: How can I find real sales opportunities without adding substantial hours to my work week?


In this tough economy, I’m struggling to get enough referrals. How can I find real sales opportunities without adding substantial hours to my work-week?


We all have a number of prospects right under our noses — we just have to train ourselves to look for them, and know the right questions to ask. Start watching for any situation that will allow you to step in and offer value. I call these moments “referral action triggers.”

You are probably asking yourself, “What’s a referral action trigger?” In a nutshell, a referral action trigger is something that creates the opportunity for action with regard to referrals. It can be a tool, an event, a statement a client makes or even a promise to yourself that triggers you to become proactive with referrals.

Wishing and hoping for referrals will not create more referrals. You have to be proactive. Identifying your own unique referral action triggers is one simple thing you can do to raise your awareness and find more referrals.

Spotting value-recognizing statements

The most obvious time to proactively seek referrals is when prospects or clients express value — in the meeting with you, the process you put them through or the relationship you’ve established with them. Value-recognizing statements are things like:

 “This meeting has been really helpful. Thank you!”
 “I’m glad I’m finally getting started with this process.”
 “How come my last advisor didn’t tell me this?”
 “I should have done this 20 years ago!”
 “We always feel better after our meetings with you.”

Action Step: With a colleague or a manager, brainstorm all the statements you’ve heard that should trigger you to think: “Value-recognizing statement.” Then, practice transitioning from that statement into asking for referrals.

Starting a value discussion

An action trigger doesn’t have to be passive. You don’t have to wait for a client to make a statement of value recognized; you can pave the way for this conversation yourself.

This is what I call a “value discussion.” If you’ve been following my work for awhile, then you know I’m a huge proponent of checking in with prospects and clients to make sure they recognize the value you deliver, and to ensure the relationship is on strong ground.

What you say to check in for value will vary depending on the type of meeting and your own personal style. Here are some examples:

First meeting with a new client: “What’s the most important thing we’ve talked about so far?”

Decision to purchase:  “You’ve made an important decision today. Tell me what tipped the scales for you? What did we discussthat helped you decide to move forward?”

Delivery of plan or policy:   “We’ve been through a process, have we not? We’ve met a few times. I’ve asked you a lot of questions.Please tell me the value you’ve received from this process.”

Action Step:  Make sure you have an agenda for every meeting. Always include “value discussion” on that agenda. This is a referral action trigger!

Referral action triggers abound. Heck, just telling someone you’re going to ask for a referral before you go to a meeting is a form of referral action trigger. Learn to act on these moments, and watch your sales grow.

Bill Cates is President, Referral Coach International. He is the author of “Get More Referrals Now!” and “Don’t Keep Me a Secret!” Referral Coach International helps financial professionals grow their business by attracting more high-quality referrals.


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