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Solution Providers Urged To Show Their Caring Sides To Win Word-Of-Mouth Referrals

“I think caring got lost along the way in sales,” Breakthrough Champion CEO Matt Ward said. “What does work is showing up in the conversation with people. It matters.”

Solution providers need to hit the reset button when seeking word-of-mouth referrals -- the real key is showing they care for people and breaking away from a self-serving, transactional mindset, author and speaker Matt Ward said at The Channel Company’s XChange 2019 today in Las Vegas.

“If you want a consistent stream of referrals coming in, you build deep, meaningful relationships with your contacts,” said Ward, CEO of Breakthrough Champion, a Templeton, Mass.-based sales consultant. “It’s not just your clients.”

Connections happen when professional and personal lives are intertwined, businesspeople show interest in their contacts’ lives and care about their successes, according to Ward.

“You can get a raving fan by being a raving fan for them,” he said.

Over-delivering or exceeding clients’ expectations, listening, surprising contacts with unexpected gifts, and non-self-serving acts are the four pillars of a “personal care package” that solution providers need to win by word of mouth, Ward said.

“I think caring got lost along the way in sales,” he said. “What does work is showing up in the conversation with people. It matters.”

Asking or bribing for referrals doesn’t work, according to Ward, nor does including one-liners such as “the best compliment you can give me is a referral to your friends and family” on email signatures, he said.

“Don’t ask people how they can help you,” Ward said. “It’s not about you. It’s always about them.”

Ward likes to refer to the “high-five” effect.

“Wouldn’t life be so much better if we could do business with people you could just walk down the hallway with and high-five?” he said.

Ward recommends friending business contacts on Facebook to share in the discussions about their lives, whether it’s a birthday or someone’s daughter leaving for college.

“I highly recommend you merge those two worlds, because that’s where the connections happen,” he said. “If you already have a ‘know, like and trust’ factor, then what is your differentiator? Why would someone refer you? When we look at what is caring, we look at the things that people do that are not around business. It’s about common conversations. It’s not about selling.”

If he asks small business owners how they get business, 100 percent will say word-of-mouth referrals, according to Ward. But when asked if they have a process to get more predictable referrals – X referrals per month, for example – only five of 100 will answer in the affirmative, he said.

“The reason is they wait for referrals to come,” Ward said.

Adopt a partner program for people you meet, Ward advised audience members.

“In many cases, it can be referral partners,” he said, noting one of the best referral sources for solution providers can be the cable or telephone service representative. “They’re approaching the same decision-maker in the same market, whether it’s the same territory or the same vertical.”

Ward’s remarks validated what Eddie Rivers, CEO of Esource Resources, already has been practicing. Rivers’ Indianapolis-based IT consulting company derives about 90 percent of its business from word-of-mouth referrals, he said.

“I will call, I will Facebook, I will stop by,” said Rivers, who finds that talking up his Kids’ Voice of Indiana charity or inviting contacts to watch a football or basketball game from a suite has proved effective in winning referrals --without talking business.

“I don’t ask for it,” Rivers said. “It happens.”

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