Please Don’t Do This
Has this ever happened to you? I’m on a call, so an incoming call goes to voicemail. Upon returning the call, I found out it was a totally random and poorly targeted sales call. Ty, (the random caller) asks me if “I’m the person in our organization to talk to about equipment leasing and financing options.” With a chuckle, I say, “not even close.” Ty continues, “Can you tell me the name of the person in your organization who would handle such things?” I share with Ty that Van Allen, our CFO, would be the person who deals with such matters. He thanks me, tells me to have a nice weekend and hangs up.
I sent a quick email to Van letting him know that I just talked to this person and warned him that if he tries to say I recommended him, it’s not true; I merely answered his questions. Moments later, Van forwards me the voicemail that Ty left him. “Hi Van. I just got a call from Jeff, one of your colleagues, and he asked me to contact you regarding equipment leasing…”. I wanted to spray disinfectant on the phone at that moment because it was such a slimy, dirty, annoying tactic. It’s true that Ty got a call from me, but only because I was being courteous by returning his call. It’s also true that I said Van was the person who dealt with such matters. So, in his mind, Ty can maintain that he didn’t lie – technically. But I received, as did Van, the impression that it was another slimy sales tactic, and no matter what company he represents or products he’s selling, we’re not interested.
In working with thousands of sellers over the years, it’s always frustrating, though understandable, why sellers get a bad rap. Ask anyone to say the first word that comes to their mind when you say “salesperson” and you’re likely to find “dishonest,” “slimy” or “liar” in the top five responses.
Ty may have been truthful, but he wasn’t honest. Referrals are the greatest source of prospecting and new business development. It’s powerful hearing from a friend or colleague about their experience with a particular product, company or service. Because referrals are so impactful, you must protect their integrity. Here are two things to establish with certainty before you use a referral:
1. You have a relationship with the person you are using as a referral.
2. The person has permitted you to have prospects call them.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? An even better form of referral is from a satisfied customer who, without you even asking, talks about your products and services positively and suggests that others do business with you also. These people are called “fans.” Do you have fans? Are you maximizing your current client relationships to cultivate fans? People who will gladly speak on your behalf to others encouraging them to do business with you? It’s quite likely that without prompting or being asked, you talk about companies or people with whom you’ve had a great experience and have a great relationship. That’s an authentic referral or fan.
Faking a referral like Ty will end in disaster and give all salespersons a bad name, so please don’t do it. What I should have done was tell Ty that if he was too lazy to figure out who he should be contacting in our organization and didn’t do any prep work or research like professional sellers do, then I wasn’t going to answer his question. It’s one of those times where you hang up the phone and think about what you “should” have said.
Authentic referrals and fans are the best word-of-mouth money can’t buy. Treat them like gold.