Thomas Gay, Refer.com
There’s a lot in print and on the web recently about the concept of “engagement” and how it applies in the sales process. We all know what engagement means at an every day level as we work to connect with people in various ways or describe how someone is engaged or even engaging. It’s an exciting time when we hear of someone becoming engaged as it means there’s both a joy for those who have made the covenant to a coming marriage where the engagement is purposed towards a deep, life-long and fulfilling relationship.
In business, the word engagement has many applications ranging from having set a mutually agreed upon appointment time (an engagement)… to reaching a deal resulting in buying or contracting for some service. In terms of sales, getting the appointment, building the bridge to communications and the “discovery” of prospect needs, reaching agreements on the best solution, etc. is all about engagement as well. Yet client or prospect engagement is much, much more… its about intentionally staying in touch, being connected, the ongoing delivery of value and personal relationship that aims to keep the pathways open for further conversations and possible new opportunities.
Recent research about engagement with clients in the financial services industry and their likelihood to provide new business referrals to their financial advisors brings some startling new and very instructive information to the table. The research work The Economics of Loyalty (2011), done by the firm Advisor Impact-Toronto, shows that people overall have a overall willingness to refer their circle of contacts to their financial advisor. There are many reasons for clients saying they’re willing to refer ranging from just simply being satisfied with their current advisors… to their desire to reinforce or rationalize their own decision already made to use their specific current advisor.
Yet, when the survey further asked clients to give a rating for their feelings on the level of engagement they currently have with their advisor (on a 1-10 scale), the results shift dramatically. Clients rating their advisor’s engagement level as “excellent”, (a rating of 9 or 10), had a 100% history of actually providing referrals to their advisors. Yet when client engagement ratings fell below the excellent level, the history of these clients actually providing advisor referrals plummeted to only 7% or less.
While these finding should send alarm bells across the financial services industry, the message should be important to everyone trying to increase sales and grow their business where client and prospect relationships and generating referrals would matter. We recently had a conversation with a very successful medical specialist whose business was heavily dependent on referrals from other general practitioners in his field. In his case referrals had dried up because in his success he took his eyes off of the relationships from where his referrals were coming leaving room for a new competitor to step in. Luckily, he adopted a plan just in time to get back engaged with his former referral sources and stepped up his relationship bridge building in a systematic manner. His business rebounded dramatically and his staff of 35 people was once again secure in their future.
Stop now and ask yourself, just how important is it to have your current clients and key connections open up their closest contacts as referrals to you. Ask as well, just how important is client retention to your business model and success. If either of these questions matter then, you must find new ways and use new tools in order to get in touch and build these close engaged connections. How often do you say, “I know I need to get in touch with… but it slipped through the cracks! This happens to just about all of us and the results are often regrettable.
My belief is that everyone knows what they should be doing in order to build the “know, like, trust” relationships that can be so fruitful and essential to reaching your goals. However, as busy as we are, we just don’t build the habits and develop the “10 minutes a day mindset” to make engagement building a part of our daily-weekly lifestyles.
Imagine how your closest circles would see you if you had a routine that showed them how important you feel they are. Imagine how they would feel if you were to make an unexpected drop by visit, make a quick, unplanned phone call or write a short personal note of appreciation with no other purpose in mind but to make them know that you are thinking about them, that they are valued and important.
This takes you first developing a mindset of being a “giver.” To make it happen consistently, use tools to systematically ensure that you’re staying engaged and in-touch to provide meaning, value and create close connections. Then, as Robert Cialdini said in his noted book Influence, as you give meaningfully to people, they will have a desire to reciprocate and if you teach them how they can give back… with referred introductions to their connections, they will! Become one of the few getting excellent ratings for engagement in your industry and you’ll reach every goal you have. For more information on how to make those levels of success happen for you and how to get into deep engagement, let’s schedule a time to talk!