When you are in sales, your job is part selling, part marketing. I find that like all things in life, it’s a matter of balance. Too much of either activity will disrupt the cycle of your business and lead to times of feast, where you have so much business you get sick, to famine, where you have so little business that you are sick with worry.
You are not only marketing your widget or widget concept, however, but you are also marketing yourself. When your clients buy from your company through you, they are also buying your services as their sales rep. They are not only taking a chance on your widget (or widget concept) but also taking a chance on you, that you are going to take care of them as the face of the company and their policies.
So you wouldn’t have come to the sales call without any sales materials about your widget/widget concept, would you? Of course not. But I would bet that many of you don’t have any sales materials about yourself.
One of the best things you can do to market yourself is to get recommendations and referrals from your current and past clients. These are the R&Rs of a sales professional.
I am a freelancer, so I am usually selling my services and myself. I do this directly through my website and my network of connections. I am also on a website called Elance.com. Elance is a website that connects people who need writers to writers who need people who want to hire them.
Elance.com understands this concept of R&R; that’s why they always ask for feedback from the client after the completion of a job. The purpose of this is so that people who want to hire you but are hesitating because they don’t know you are likely to go ahead when they see all the positive feedback from your past clients.
However, I was just an ordinary sinner until recently. My ratings on Elance.com notwithstanding, I didn’t have any recommendations and referrals until a couple of months ago.
I had a broker contact me who has a stable of talent that she then connects with people who need occasional help. It’s just like Elance.com but instead of a website it’s a well-connected woman. Part of what she wanted before she would hire me were recommendations from current clients.
Her request suddenly made me acutely aware of the fact that I didn’t have any. Yeesh! I saw it as a great opportunity to remedy this shortcoming in my marketing strategy.
So when you need a recommendation from a client, what do you do? Simply put: ask. That list is so short that I didn’t even put it in a bulleted format. If I did, it would look like this:
How to get a Recommendation or Referral from a client:
Looks stupid, right?
It is so simple it is stupid, however. Most clients that you work with on a regular basis don’t mind writing a recommendation for you. Likewise, they don’t mind referring you to their colleagues or someone who might need your services also.
Here is an example of the email you can use to ask for a recommendation from a client:
“Hi, [client name],
As we approach our [x] year anniversary, would you please give me a recommendation that I can use for prospective clients? I have attached a document that gives you ideas on what to say to make it easier for you. If you could put your comments in a Word doc on your letterhead, it would help me as I try to grow my business.
Also, would it be okay to list your corporate contact information if they wanted to contact you? I doubt many will, but I want to make sure it’s okay with you before I list it.”
You can easily modify this for a referral as well. Instead of asking for corporate contact information just ask them to forward your information to two or three people who might benefit from your widget. If you prefer to do the contacting, ask instead for the referral’s contact information directly and for your client to let them know you are going to call. The point of your client’s call is to turn a cold call into a warm call. And if not warm, then at least tepid.
The only objection you may get, and one that I got from one of my clients was that they were slammed with work. I had a solution for that as you can see in my example email. I gave them copy points. Almost all of them used these, too. It just goes to show you that if you lead a horse to water, you can make it easy for them to use the accolades that you have prewritten for them to praise your work.
Wait,what? Well, you get the point!
In drafting these points, consider what a future client may want to know about you. Here are some examples of what I sent my clients:
- Terri delivers on the project by the deadline every time.
- She is easy to work with and makes my job easier.
- When she works with my clients directly for interviews or on projects, I am confident that she will represent my company well and reflect well on my brand.
- I appreciate that she considers my audience in her copy so that it sends the right message to the right people I am trying to reach
- Terri provides a quality service at a price that fits my budget.
- I never feel as though I didn’t get a great value for my investment.
You get the idea. These are all true by the way. If you don’t believe me just ask my mom.
The R&Rs, recommendations and referrals are also a great way to gauge your performance. The fact that your clients are willing to write one for you shows you that the account is in good shape.
Radio silence is also telling…but at least you can address it before the situation gets any worse!
Sales is part selling, part marketing. This is true for both your widgets and your services as a sales rep. R&Rs are a great marketing tool for marketing yourself, so be sure that you have these important tools to keep your business growing by employing the ultra-complicated strategy of asking for them. Doing so will ensure that you always have a seat at the feast of new opportunities, instead of scrambling for crumbs during a sales famine.
What strategy or suggestions do you have for how to get your R&Rs in order? Please share your insight in the comments below.
Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered atwww.terrilively.com.