Growing Referral Sources Starts with a Connection Strategy

The number one issue every manager and originator is discussing today is how to generate more referral sources and thus close more loans. The research clearly shows that originators with the most referral sources do the most volume. I think this is no surprise to most salespeople and managers. The question is why do so many originators struggle to increase their referral sources?  In my view, underperforming originators limit their sales model to presenting their product’s benefits and why their lender is better than the competition. This simply isn’t enough to establish the trust and credibility needed to generate referral business.

The reality is that originators who talk endlessly about themselves are going to have a limited number of referral resources. What is missing is a real connection between the originator and the prospect and the opportunity to influence the buyer’s journey. The end result is the referral source slots the originator as just another pushy salesperson who they do not trust. Successful producers start with making a connection and building a relationship before starting a sales pitch.

In Scott Hogle’s great book Persuade, he describes how the law of connection is the number one rule for prospecting and getting more referrals. “While connecting the first time with anybody is nerve-wracking, it is a skill that must be mastered if a salesperson will be successful,” Hogle says. The challenge with any initial meeting is that a salesperson can easily become inward-focused and not really listen to the customer. A sure sign of this is when a salesperson is thinking of what to say next when the customer is still speaking. The pressure of trying to impress someone can lead to the originator doing all the talking and not really hearing or allowing the customer to speak. This can be fatal because the responsibility to make a connection resides with the originator and not the prospect. Hogle likens making a connection to “the salesperson building a bridge of trust that leads to a close.”

According to Hogle there are three primary rules for connecting with a customer:

  1. A salesperson must leave his or her comfort zone to enter into the customer’s comfort zone. Nothing happens unless the salesperson makes this effort. Products alone with the coolest technology do not sell themselves.
  2. It is the salesperson’s job to expend the physical and emotional energy to capture the customer’s attention. Getting a customer’s attention starts with connecting on common ground. Common ground can be people that you both know or working previously at the same company. The connection point can also include hobbies and passions. The point is to start with commonality when selling to a new customer.
  3. A salesperson must develop a series of strategies for connecting and never go into a meeting without a plan to connect. Each customer is unique and a strategy must be matched to the individual. The advantage today is that information on consumers and business people are easily available on the internet. There is no excuse not to be prepared with a game plan that starts with a connections strategy.

Finally, Hogle notes two important phrases salespeople can use when meeting prospects to help establish a connection: “I’m listening, please go on” and “Can you elaborate on that?” These sentiments help convey that the salesperson cares and will look out for the prospect’s best interests. In a world where there is a lot of talk, active listening is the greatest tool for any originator to use to make a connection.