Convincing Prospective Referral Sources: “Why Change Now?”

This year, prospecting for new referral sources or brokers has been one of the most frequently requested topics in my sales training sessions. There is no question that lack of referral sources is directly linked to low volume for originators. Having a handful of referral partners is no longer enough to succeed in the current marketplace. Originators need 12 to 20 active clients if they want to produce sufficient volume to make budgeted goals. But adding new customers is difficult and originators must start by recognizing that they are facing the power of the status quo. If an originator isn’t able to convince prospects “why change is needed now,” the chances of winning new referral sources are low.

A prospect’s resistance to changing providers can be driven by many reasons. Prospects may be protecting their position; trying to avoid making costly mistakes or simply trying to maintain the status quo. As a result, prospects will often say they are happy with their present provider even if the relationship is not working as well as it could. However, to admit dissatisfaction means they will have to take action and working around the issue is an easier option. While this is frustrating to sales professionals, the pull of the status quo is so strong that dissatisfaction isn’t enough to prompt prospects to switch to a new lender. Sticking with the old ways of doing things is frankly more comfortable than venturing into the unknown.

So what should originators do?

Many originators start their conversations with prospects by talking about how terrific their lender is and how much money the customer will make by referring business to them. There is no attempt to discuss the current state of the industry; what new results are possible; and how the prospect could improve his or her situation. These originators assume that the customer has already answered the question of “why change now.”  This can be a fatal mistake.

On the other hand, better originators know what is working in the industry and what isn’t and most importantly, they know what the prospect’s competitors are doing — information that makes them valuable to prospects.

Sub-par originators are limited to discussing their company’s products and services. Sometimes they can’t even do that. These originators can’t deliver value to the prospect because they are not addressing relevant concerns. Unfortunately, in today’s business environment being irrelevant translates into being unsuccessful.

What does being relevant involve?

In Anthony Iannarino’s great book The Lost Art of Closing, he says that helping a prospect to consider changing involves “sharing your insights and point of view about your prospective client’s business, their risks and their opportunities. Creating value during your first meeting with them requires you to share some big ideas.  It means providing your prospect with five big trends that deserve their attention and how you have helped your clients address these challenges.”

According to Iannarino, great salespeople must be able to answer these questions:

• Can you name the four or five trends that are going to cause your prospective clients problems now or in the near future? If not, there is no reason to meet.

• Can you share your experiences of helping other clients in similar situations with their challenges? If not, you don’t have the insights that would indicate you are the right partner.

• Can you deliver the advice your clients need? Do you know the thing they don’t know? If not, you are just another salesperson that sells and disappears.

What percent of your sales force can present a compelling case to prospects on why they should change now?  As 2018 closes in, this training topic should be a top priority.