Many sales trainers will tell you that the key to obtaining more referrals is asking for the business. Absolutely false. If it were true, why have trainers been beating this into our heads for years and most of us still are not comfortable asking? The key to getting more referrals is putting ourselves in the position to ask. When we place ourselves in the right position, the business transaction will take place naturally. If it feels uncomfortable or is forced–it is not right.

Of course, an important question follows: How do you put yourself in a position to ask? This is a fairly complex issue and involves everything from market positioning to the delivery of great customer service. In this article, we will address only one positioning technique–the delivery of value to a business-to-business partner. Why do we start with this particular activity? Because there is no one area that demonstrates so effectively that asking is a finely tuned skill and not merely walking around and pleading.

Specifically, what we are referring to here is delivering a lead to someone who can deliver many leads to us. The law of reciprocity dictates that we deliver value to those who are delivering value to us. Within the real estate industry–it would not be unusual for real estate agents, loan officers, settlement companies, insurance agents, financial planners and even CPAs to “trade” prospects. The question is–how do you do such and achieve the most value in return? Have you ever delivered a lead to a partner (or a potential partner)–and never received anything in return? Here are some very important considerations–

First, make sure that this lead is not a one-shot deal. You must make lead generation an overall part of your business plan. Otherwise, your partner will not see you as a long-term valuable resource. They are more likely to see the gesture as a one-time windfall and look elsewhere for long-term value.

Secondly, target the right people. While it is always right to reward a present partner that delivers value to you on a regular basis, you must recognize that your business plan will sometimes require that you use your resources to develop or solidify new business relationships. Unfortunately, we usually select those WE want to service. The sales process is not about us–it is about the needs of whom we are serving. We must select based upon–

Lack of relationship interference. If they cannot use us in the long-run because of their established relationships–they are not the best recipient of our value.

Loyalty. How loyal are they to their partners and/or vendors? If they are not loyal to their present partners, what makes you think they will be loyal to you? In some respects, this aspect is a tough balancing act with the first point because those who are loyal are more likely to have relationship interference.

How are they going to treat your customer? Can they deliver great service? Your name is going to be on the line here (and hopefully again and again). Do not leave the results to chance.

Are they ethical? This aspect covers everything from them doing what they say they will do, to staying on the right side of the law.

Next, you must make sure you deliver the prospect in the right way. What we are talking about here is a business deal. Asking for the business is more than a question. It is a business negotiation. Make sure they know exactly what is expected and when. They must be in total agreement as to what they are to deliver.

Finally, you must follow-up with a vengeance. A key to success in sales is diligent follow-up and there is no area within sales in which this adage will prove to be more true than in this situation. If you do not follow-up appropriately, you are opening the door to such statements as “I haven’t had anyone to send.” If they did not have the business to allocate, why would you have selected them to utilize one of your most precious resources? You must show them that you are serious with regard to making sure they hold up their end of the business proposition. The longer you go without follow-up the less chance you have of collecting your reward.

You have heard this before–success is not an accident. Neither is failure. What we are talking about here is planning for success. Your precious resources could lead to very valuable relation-ships that will help you succeed. Or you could wind up wasting the chance. Which will it be?