In today’s episode, host John Laurito talks with his good friend, Podcast Host, Author, Coach, Speaker, and Referral Expert, Bill Cates about the keys to building a successful referral-based business. Bill also shares how he got started on his business, how he stayed relevant through decades in his passion, and how people can meet the right connections to make the right referrals.
Bill Cates is a high-energy speaker who motivates by sharing proven ideas and strategies that work. Bill has helped over 20,000 small business owners, and salespeople build thriving referral-based businesses – where the phone is ringing with referred customers/clients. And Bill has helped large companies increase sales and cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing expenses at the same time!
Bill Cates is the author of three popular books on referrals: Get More Referrals Now!, Don’t Keep Me a Secret!, and Beyond Referrals: How to Use the Perpetual Revenue System to Turn Referrals into High-Value Clients. Bill is the president of Referral Coach International and the founder of The Referral Coach Academy.
Bill’s seminars are high energy and high content. Bill is the kind of speaker who prefers to talk with his audience instead of talking to them. Therefore, you can expect a highly interactive session. You can also expect to receive powerful and practical strategies that will have an immediate impact on your business.
Connect with Bill:
[3:01] How did Bill get started on his business?
[5:03] His passion for referrals
[7:25] How does he stay relevant over the years?
[12:24] What are the things that leaders should look at to find the right problems?
[15:43] On getting feedback from clients to make your business relevant
[22:46] What allows someone to build a referral-based business?
[32:18] The Wimp Junction
[36:52] Double down on how people want to meet you
[39:40] What can leaders do to drive their company to become referral-focused?
[44:02] The referral script
[49:41] Where to find Bill
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader.
John Hey, they’re tomorrow’s leaders. So for those of you who are running businesses, leaders of organizations, you’re in sales yourself. If you’re anything involved and trying to get new clients, referrals are always in your mind, right? How do we get more and better referrals? How do we build a referral-based culture in our organization? For those of you that have those questions in your mind, today’s podcast is going to be incredibly helpful and impactful because I’m connecting you to whom I consider being a referral master. His name is Bill Cates, and I met Bill back in 1995 when I started in the business of financial services. And he transformed my business because I used his approach. I learned from him, I use the systems. This is a very meaningful individual in my career and I still teach his process and approach today. So it’s all about the right mindset. It’s the approach that’s everything. So I had the opportunity to reconnect with Bill, and brought him on the podcast. Of course, we talked a lot about referrals as you’re going to hear, but we also talked about leadership life, how he’s stayed so relevant over the course of 30 years, and his career and his journey. So I know you’re going to like this. Here’s my friend Bill Cates.
John All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep into all things leader related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, of course, your host. And I’m here with a great guest, somebody who I’ve actually gotten to know, like 30 years ago, Bill Cates person who I’ve admired from afar and now get to have a relationship with and get to know on a personal basis. So, Bill, welcome to the show.
Bill I thank you, John. And just in case they misheard you, it’s not Bill Gates with a G, it’s Bill Cates. Here’s the deal. Bill Gates has a lot of money giving a lot away. I’m going to help you make more money by serving more clients. There you go.
John And you’re close in wealth. I know. You know India, maybe a zero.
Bill A billion here or there. Yeah, you know, what’s that?
John You know, that’s small stuff. But, you know, great to have you here. And I just, you know, for the audience, you know, I got a chance to get exposed to you back in 90 mid-nineties. And you were at that time a big deal. And I want to talk to you so much about what’s gone on over your journey in your career. And the audience will learn a little bit about that as we go here. But let’s just start with how you got into your business. I mean, you’re a successful author. You teach businesses and individuals how to build a referral-based business. You do it exceptionally well. How did your journey take you to that?
Bill Yeah, I’ll give you the executive briefing version. I know some people are interested in how folks get started in building businesses. We were well in that too long. So essentially I built and sold to book publishing companies in the eighties and one went into the early nineties and one of them I sold for a pretty good amount of money. Another one I sold to get out of a bad partnership and cover my debt. So, you know, when someone says they sold a business, it doesn’t necessarily mean they made a lot of money out of the deal. I had one of both experiences and then I was looking for the next thing to do. I wasn’t in a hurry and a friend of mine saw me emcee some fundraising events and things in the community and he said, You know, you should be a professional speaker and consultant. You’ve got a lot to offer and you’re good on stage and yada yada. I said, Well, okay, I’ll explore that. So I started exploring the world, a world of that, and I liked it.
Bill I like the combination of learning and teaching and kind of sharing what I’ve learned and used myself through my filter so other people can get it. I had people tell me I’m pretty good at explaining things in a way that they get, so you’ll be the judge of that after this program. But so so that’s what started me on the journey of doing what I’m doing now for over 30 years. And I’ve had a pretty good run. I’m not I can’t use the word slowing down because I don’t think I know how to slow down but am working fewer hours. So I’m about a third, 25, 30 hours a week now. And of course, at one point I was at 40, 50, 60, you name it, everyone on this call can understand.
John Yeah, we. So now how, how did, how did your passion become around referrals itself? Was that how you built your prior businesses?
Bill Well, it is, although it was more of an unconscious competence for quite some time. And so what happened is I was getting into this business and I was actually listening to some audiotapes. Most people will know what an audiotape is, and it was about referrals and how to get more referral business. And I was going to give a presentation, so I decided to incorporate a little bit of that into the presentation. I don’t try anymore in about 10% new material in any presentation, but I played around with that and people liked it. They responded well and I said, You know, I think I’m going to work on this. And I wanted to write a book. I wanted to write a narrow topic book because I want to become an expert in a certain area.
Bill And so within about a month, I decided I was going to write my first book on referrals, which is called Unlimited Referrals, which you can’t really get anymore. You maybe can get use copies on eBay that came out in 96. And so really that’s what that was the genesis of this business. And it was one of those things that. You know, I hate to use this term, but the kind of meant to be, you know, because I know when I was writing the book, stuff was just flowing out of me. I don’t know where it came from. Hmm. You know, I felt like I was channeling something because it was just flowing stand up till two in the morning writing. And so I knew I was onto something. I seemed to have a knack for this. And, you know, the rest is 30 years of history of this.
John Yeah. Well, first of all, congrats, because it’s incredibly you know, you and I were talking about this a little bit prior to the show about how what the failure rate is of businesses. Mm-hmm. And you think about in just the first three years of a business, it’s so high, and then the next five years, it’s very high. So at the end of, you know, an 8 to 10 year period of time, you get an incredibly small percentage of businesses that are alive, let alone thriving. And you’ve stayed very and I love the topic. I’m super passing around referrals and that was my own experience in business early on and learning from pros like you and seeing the benefits of that. But you’ve stayed not only very I think at the top of this industry, but you’ve also stayed very, very relevant, which I think is a really important word in a lot of businesses. Missed that. A lot of leaders missed that. What is that all about to you? How do you stay relevant over the course of multiple decades?
Bill Well, probably the primary way. There are a lot of ways to do it, but the primary way is to make sure you’re really in touch with your clients or customers. Not only where they are, but where they want to be. And I’ve also learned that as I solve problems for my clients, sometimes new problems crop up by solving the problem. So let me give you an example. So for a long time, I was helping people get more referrals. And that’s good. People love that. But, you know, it things changed a little bit and it started getting harder and harder and harder to reach people. So then I realized I had to start helping people get more introductions, not just referrals, but connections, right? Email, handshakes, all kinds of ways to get introduced in person. And then I also learned that you know, the referral and the introduction is not the end game. It’s the means to the end.
Bill Most people get it as a benefit because they know they’re going to, you know, win a higher ratio of new clients and usually better clients and all that sort of thing through referrals and introductions. But I started getting into a little more of appointment setting and winning the sale, winning the new business, because one kind of leads to the next. And I think that’s true for almost any business, product, or service. You help solve problems and people become aware of other issues of their problems that you want to make sure. So I stay relevant by really talking to my clients firsthand, making sure I was really on the pulse of what was going on for them.
John I love that. And that’s a really, that’s a really interesting way to think about it. You know, you’re in a business, you’ve figured out a problem that exists and how to solve it. But in doing that, there are other problems that come up, and that’s a great way to think about relevance. You know, are you still solving the initial problem, or have you actually adapted as people have moved on to bigger, even bigger problems?
Bill Yeah. And if I could follow up with that a little bit too. It’s solving the right problems and the right problems may change. And let me tell you what I mean by that. So one of the last chapters in my latest book, Radical Relevance, is a model of the types of problems we want to try to build our business around. I didn’t invent this. I got it from a guy named Michael Scott, who’s a venture capitalist in New England. And it essentially goes like this on one axis, if you will have problems, there’s the latent and the blatant, there’s the hidden and the and the known, the obvious. And if someone doesn’t know they have a problem, then it’s our job to kind of point it out a little better if we already if they already know they have the problem. Right. We’re a little further ahead. And then the other is aspirational versus critical. So if someone has a problem and they’d like to fix it someday, eventually I’ll get it done.
Bill Okay. You know, you might move some people forward. But if it’s critical, if there’s a deadline, if they’re bleeding money, employees, whatever the problem is, then they’re going to move heaven and earth to fix that problem. So the bottom line is as best we can, and it’s not always easy, but as best we can, we build our business based on blatant critical problems. So our prospects know they have the problem and they know they need to solve it. Again, sometimes it’s just. I know you have a lot of financial advisors listening to this, so just take life insurance as an example. A lot of people, know about life insurance. They may think they have enough, whatever. It’s aspirational and it’s not always critical. And so and it’s sometimes it’s late and they don’t know they should have more. And so we’ve got to work on that a little bit. We’ve got to educate. So that’s where the education in the quote-unquote sales and marketing process comes into play, where sometimes we have to educate them and help them realize this problem is a little more critical than maybe you thought. And if you’re not moving your prospective clients to become clients. Mm-hmm. And perhaps they aren’t seeing the critical nature of what you’re trying to do. Yeah. And. And you can move people through aspiration if they want something bad enough. And that can move people, too. But usually, the critical, blatant problem is that is the sweet spot.
John So let me ask you this. And I love that way of looking at it, latent versus blatant and aspirational versus critical. If you’re talking to leaders as a lot of leaders out there that are running organizations, small or large, that may have problems, that they just that are kind of in that latent bucket, they don’t necessarily aren’t aware of them. What do leaders need to be looking for that, and whether it’s their culture? You know, we talk a lot, obviously, about referrals. And I don’t know if my question is more specific to referrals, but as you’ve worked with business leaders, what are some of those maybe things that they should be looking for to tell them that, hey, you know what your problem is? You know, is there and it’s more critical than you think.
Bill Right. Well, gosh, there are so many places we can go with this. I’d say that overall, the first place we have to think about and start, and I’ve kind of mentioned this a little bit already, is staying in touch with customers, customers, or clients. But we have to constantly stay in touch with our customers, the clients. And we have to constantly say, what’s working? How are we meeting your expectations and are we letting you down anywhere? I call this the value check-in. It’s kind of a precursor to a request for referrals we can cover later if you want. But and and and occasionally saying, you know, if we could wave a magic wand, what would we do differently or better forming study groups with our clients or, you know, advisory teams.
Bill So getting all that feedback, the same thing internally with our employees, the same thing, right? What could be done better? Would, you know, wave a magic wand? What we do differently, better doesn’t mean you’re going to implement every single idea that they present, but they’re sometimes they’re the ones who are face to face with some of those problems that we as a leader may not be seeing. Exactly. And then occasionally the outside voice. Right. Occasionally the consultant or someone else, even just peers, just in study groups are masterminds examining each other’s business with a critical eye. So there are a lot of ways to do this, and this is how you can figure out what the real problem is. Sometimes you may. So, for instance, you know, turnover, employee turnover, employee turnover is is is a problem, but it’s really a symptom of a deeper problem. And so you say we got to reduce employee turnover. Okay, great. You know what’s causing it. And so we dig.
Bill That’s how we stay relevant and that’s how we look at the right problems and this whole idea of late and aspirational and critical and all that, that that works internally, too. It’s not just external to try to attract new business and keep the business. It also works internally within the organization. You know, is this problem critical? Is it aspirational? And the big question, ask yourself internally and ask your prospects, and your clients externally what’s the cost of doing nothing? And the cost of doing nothing is high. Then obviously it’s probably a critical problem. Mm-hmm. If the cost of doing nothing is low, then it’s an aspirational problem, and nothing wrong with solving aspirational problems. Right. Nothing wrong with doing it. Get something you want, even though it’s not a problem. Yeah, it’s just. Again, the sweet spot is. Is for solving that critical stuff first.
John Well, it’s amazing, you know, again. You made me think that there are so few leaders that are asking those questions or solopreneurs that are asking their clients the question of, okay, how am I doing? Or How are we doing? What’s working and what’s not? What should we do more or less differently, better? And that’s so critical, right? I mean, that’s critical. And I remember that is the first step of the referral process or one of the first steps. But it’s an OB. It seems like it should be an obvious thing, but most leaders missed that, right?
Bill Well, a lot do. It’s true. Or they’ll go through phases. Right. Let’s they’ll put a survey out. They’ll do a study, you know, let’s survey our clients and see. And that has its value to written surveys and online surveys. Good one-on-one conversations. A good one to several. Good. It’s all good. It’s all relevant. And so in my book, Radical Relevance, I have the 17 rules of Radical Relevance. And number two is to give your clients or customers a seat at the table. And essentially what that means, which is what I’ve just been saying, is really don’t make any critical decisions that are going to affect clients or customers. When you work on your branding and your sales process and your website and all the various things that you’re doing to try to attract and retain new clients or customers don’t do it in a vacuum. Talk to people and it’s amazing some of the things you’ll hear. I’ll give you two examples. On my own, one with some coaching clients I had so my own. I do this on a pretty regular basis.
Bill And so Michael Smith’s is a client of mine out in San Mateo, California, I should say, was because I think he’s fully retired now. But when I was doing this, I said to him, you know, how do you think about us? How do you describe us to other people? What would you say? He says, I tell folks that Bill Gates makes asking for referrals as natural as breathing, and they go, Wow, that’s pretty good. You know, I never would have thought of saying that. Can I say that? Can I quote you? Well, yeah, of course. And I always make sure to quote him, because if I said it, it’s kind of marketing hype. Mm-hmm. If I’m quoting a client who actually said it now, it’s a little more real of a testimonial. So you hear phrases and ways of talking about your business that you might not think of on your own or with your team. Working with a couple of financial advisors, were going through this exercise and they talk to a client and the client says, You know, when I think of you guys, I call you the Dream Makers.
Bill And they said, Tell us more about that. And well, you helped me get really clear on my dreams and goals. And unlike my last advisor who kind of asked me and then it never came up again, you guys keep it going. You keep it in front of me from time to time, and you check in and you help a little here and there where you can. So you guys have actually helped me achieve my dreams, not just by making sure I put enough money away. Mm-hmm. So they go, Yes, that’s it. That’s. See, the best kind of clients are the clients who see our value. Yeah, in a way, we want them to see it. Right. And then they give it back to us in the way they express it. And that’s gold. Yeah, I love that.
John So yeah. So is the question there, is it asking a client, how would you describe me or what do you think of when you think of me? Is that what the.
Bill Yeah, there are a lot of different ways to do it and it’s probably a series of similar questions that just keep digging around the same thing. So for instance, you know, what do you like about what we’re doing right? Where do you see the best value coming from our relationship? What’s not working? Anything we could do better? Oh, no, you guys are great. Well, nobody’s great. You know, on a scale of 1 to 10, where are we now? I give you nine. All right, nice. Pretty good. Well, we’d like to be a ten. Now, if they say I don’t give ten, I don’t give anybody ten, I’d say, okay, so your nine is really a ten. That’s cool. But we’re trying to figure out what’s the gap, right? And what does it take to get to that ten with them? That’s another way to do it. You can say, Do you ever talk about us to others? And if so, what do you say? How do you describe it?
Bill Or if you were me and you were writing some headlines and some copy for a website, what would you say about us now? Some clients are going to be more adept at giving you good answers around this and others, right? Some have a knack for words and a knack for marketing, sales, value, probe, communication, and all that. They’re probably going to be more helpful than folks that might not have that inclination. But still, you’re going to hear stuff and learn stuff. You’re going to hear how people perceive you that you don’t want to be perceived as well. Oh, that’s the way you’ve been thinking about me. That’s the way you’ve been describing me to. Okay, well, I think I need to share with you some of the other things we do. Yeah. Right, right. So a lot gets learned from that conversation. Yeah, you can even do it with prospects, especially if you have a longer sales cycle. And it’s just timing is everything and it takes a while. Depends on the kind of business you have. Obviously, you can start to have that kind of conversation before they become a client. Mhm. Right. How are we doing? How’s our process? You can be often quite transparent with certain people, the ones you get along with nicely, the ones you know, you can have some good transparent conversations. So yeah, it’s kind of a mindset to do that. You got to be curious. You got to be not afraid to hear something you don’t want to hear.
John Well, that’s the key. That’s such a great point. You know, you’ve got to be willing to hear the stuff you don’t want to hear. You know, I accidentally found the answer to that question I remember a way back when, as a first-year advisor, I was in a meeting with a client. She got a phone call and she said, you know, can I call you back? I’m here with my insurance guy. And I was like upon because I wasn’t an insurer, I was a financial advisor. We had only we had started working together and that was what we started talking about. But we had got to the investments and everything yet and I’m thinking, Wow, how does she have such a warped perception of what I am? I don’t view myself as that, but it’s interesting. It was really telling and it stuck in my gut all these years after I’m like, I learned that lesson that you’ve got to be really clear on who you are. But what a great takeaway. You know, ask your clients or customers, you know, how they would describe you and how they talk to other people about. Yeah, I love that.
Bill Yeah. Don’t be afraid to say, hey, we’re working on our messaging, we’re working on marketing and I just love to get your opinion, and see what comes up. You know, any answer is a good answer. The closer to the truth, the better. Yeah. And then just, you know, and that’s where having good relationships with clients and I guess there are some people you might not ask that, but and it has nothing to do with whether they’re happy or they’re not happy. It’s just the better the relationship, the more honest they’re going to be, I guess. Yeah. Yeah. So anyway.
John Yeah. So let’s talk about referrals. I’m super passionate. You obviously are. You’re the pro, um, let’s, let’s talk about what makes somebody, what, what allows somebody to build a referral-based business that’s a machine. What are some of the things that you talk about and you teach?
Bill Yeah. So I have to start with you have to be referable. In other words, you, you know, the word remarkable means worthy of remark. You have to be worthy of remark. You have to you know, people need to see your value and to the point where they want to share your value with other people. So that’s and that’s a big topic. And, you know, we could spend tons of time just on that. There are other aspects like how do you be proactive without looking like a cheesy referral guy or, you know, anything like that. But the first part is the refer ability. And so here’s the way I like to think about refer ability. Think of the client or customer journey in three unequal stages. The first part is the prospect experience. It’s the courtship that you and they are going through to determine if is it a fit. Sometimes that’s a long period.
Bill Sometimes it’s fairly short, but it’s there. And what we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to make two different types of connections. We’re trying to connect with a value meaning, ask good questions, teach them a little bit, be responsive, all the value kind of oriented things, and then build a bit, of personal relationship. The business friendships start to start to get started on that a little bit, connect in a personal way and I’ll give you some examples of this in a second. And then the next stage is onboarding. Someone becomes a client or customer for different businesses. It could vary anywhere from 30 days to 90 days for financial advisors. I’m usually thinking in 60 to 90 days other business could be a little shorter, but what does that onboarding look like, and are you continuing to provide value? Are you making more of a personal connection with them yourself and your team members?
Bill Because the people who give referrals are the people who feel engaged with you and your business and your people are engaged in value and engaged on a personal level. And then there’s the ongoing relationship that could last for a very long time. Again, how do we keep bringing value? How do we keep connecting in a personal way? So if we just attend to that or just think about that, you could there’s a lot of great things you can do for the prospect experience. One of the best ways to connect on a personal level is to talk about what I’ll say. I call your client-focused why? Why do you believe in your value and what that means to them? So experiences you’ve had before you got in the business while you’re in the business, how you’ve seen people really resonate with your value and how you see it as a mission to make sure they experience the same value or don’t experience the same problem you had.
Bill People who share their pers, their client-focused tend to win more business and become more referable more quickly. And then you got the onboarding experience, have a plan in place, have a checklist that you and your staff go through to make sure they feel really onboarded it. Like, Wow, better than I expected. And you’ve to ease their stress along the way and, you know, maybe invited it to a client appreciation event somewhere along the way or whatever it takes for the personal connection and then ongoing. We’ve already covered one of the key elements of the ongoing relationship, and that is checking in and making sure that we are where we need to be and matching expectations, and fixing it if we’re not. That creates a huge level of engagement. Now, it’s interesting when someone gives a referral or makes an introduction, their level of engagement with us actually goes up. So they need to feel engaged to do it. But when they do it, especially if we handle it well, that level of engagement goes even higher. And so it’s a kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will. And it creates a lot of momentum where you can create a truly robust, successful referral-only business over time. And that’s not even asking. There are ways that ask, but that’s not even asking. You can do that.
John Yeah, well, that makes a lot of sense. You know, and when you talk about onboarding, it’s interesting how many times I think organizations lose sight or how many organizations lose sight of the importance of that, you know, and how precise that needs to be. And when you talk about the checklist and everything and having that really wired tightly because it’s really hard to come back from a bad onboard and experience, I mean, you’re in a ditch and you’re trying to get out and I’ve been on that end it from a client standpoint with different businesses and it takes a long time.
Bill We all have we’ve all we all see how we’re being received slash onboarded into the new business. And we see it when it’s good and we see it when it’s not. Yeah.
John Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So. So that’s been referable and then what’s, what’s, what are these some of the other components. What, what contribute? Yeah.
Bill So the proactive side of things is kind of to two levels if you will there. One is, I’ll call it promoting referrals or introductions. Sometimes I call it planting seeds because it’s things you can say early or often in a relationship you’re not really asking, but over time it builds a little momentum. So I kind of become known for popularizing the phrase, at least in financial services, Don’t keep me a secret, don’t keep us a secret. Don’t keep the important work we do a secret. Variations on that. One of my books is that title. And so that’s one of the many things you can do. I tell you, one of the best things you can do is teach your clients or customers that if they did refer someone to you or think of someone that should know about you, how you would handle it, what’s the most comfortable and effective way to make that connection?
Bill Just teach people that because if they don’t know, they may think, Oh, I’m going to have to give them her phone number and she’s going to he’s going to call her and bugger and write them in the absence of information you get, right. Misinformation. So, you know, teach them what it would look like. And it’s a great way to plant the seed, even if they may not think of anyone on the spot. That’s okay. You’re not really trying to get them to think of anyone on the spot. Although it does happen, you just insert it into the conversation, celebrating if you met them through an introduction and how everybody wins and it’s better for everyone that way. So lots of ways to promote the three of about one they have and then then the outright ask and this is where everybody gets nervous. And I don’t care when I’m doing my in-person presentations to folks, business owners and financial advisors, etc., I say You’re smart.
Bill And you’re confident you wouldn’t be and I’d see you wouldn’t be here right where you are with us right now if you weren’t smart and confident. But when it comes to asking for introductions from your clients, you turn into a ball of quivering jello and I have a slide with O quivering behind me and I’m getting a lot of nods like this. Yeah. Yeah. Like all that confidence and smartness and intelligence go out the window. Why? Well, they don’t want to look needy. They don’t want to look begging, unsuccessful. They don’t want to be pushy and put people on the spot. They don’t want to look like that cheesy referral guy. And I’ve heard many of my clients say, I don’t want to look like that. Right. And so the key is just having the right way to do it and to ask. But. Being proactive. What being proactive will do is it will speed up the process. First of all, any business should be growing incrementally just by doing a great job for their clients or customers. If you’re not growing naturally, incrementally, then there’s clearly something missing from the service or the problems you’re trying to solve or whatever. And if you want to grow a little faster and you want to create exponential growth and not just incremental growth, then you need to multiply your best clients, your best customers. And that’s where the asking comes into play. We’re really proactively trying to multiply the people that we serve well and who appreciate what we do.
John Well, I agree so much and it’s funny, I remember you teaching and talking about the Wimp Junction and it resonated so much with me because I remember getting to the end of appointments saying, okay, I’m committed to asking for referrals. I’ve learned Bill’s approach. I have this thing down and you face that moment and whether it’s body language from the client, they’re getting ready, they’re tired, they want to go or you’re something in your own head. Well, you know, I’ll push it off to next time. And you either do or you don’t. And I remember a time distinctly, I was committed to doing it. I was wimping out. And I remember just somehow mustering up the courage to do it. And I asked for referrals and I got. The best referral client ever got. And the client said responded once they asked, said, Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you mentioned that. Yes, there’s somebody. And I just remember thinking, wow, I don’t know if I would have gotten that referral. I certainly would have gotten I would not have gotten it tonight and I might not have ever gotten that referral had I not asked.
Bill You so much for what you just said. First of all, Wimp Junction, I didn’t invent the phrase. I learned that from one of my very first sales trainers many, many, many, many years ago. Dave Sandler. So I do want to give credit where credit’s the credits do, but we all as soon as you say the words Wimp Junction, everybody understands what that is, right? And we all experience it probably on a daily basis, whether it’s with family or employees or prospects or clients. Right? Those little places where we can be courageous or we can wimp out. And the thing about asking for introductions is it’s actually not very hard from a mechanical standpoint. You know, it’s actually pretty easy to do. It’s just easier not to do. So we can make up all kinds of excuses if we are feeling uncomfortable around that. One quick thing on that, you know, there’s a lot of I’ve seen it in articles. I’ve heard people say, you know, you shouldn’t be asking for introductions or referrals because they’re not thinking about you.
Bill They’re thinking about them and they’re not thinking about others that are you know, you’re making it all about you. Well, when I played basketball in high school, I had a coach, Don Brown, and to that statement, he would say horse manure. Because back then, when I was playing ball, you didn’t use other words. It was horse manure gates. And so the truth is you can ask sometimes people are thinking of other people, as you just explained. And sometimes if we just don’t bring it up, they won’t be thinking of other people, of course. But here’s the key. We don’t make it about the old methodologies. We don’t make it about how I get paid. I get paid in two ways. Some of the folks listening probably were trained that way. You don’t make it about begging. I’m building my business. I could really use your help, right? Make it about the value of the work you do. And people have seen the value.
Bill They’ve told you the value. Can we pay it forward? Can we bring this value to others? Yeah. You get paid, you build your business, and you get compensated. We don’t have dead people over the head with that. They know it. And it’s got to come from that belief. If you don’t have that belief, you probably never will ask. So it’s got to start there. And some people don’t always have that. I mean, I remember I was working with a wirehouse financial advisor and this guy was 20 years in the business and we were walking to lunch after my presentation. He says, You know, I’ve been in the business 20 years and I still wonder if I’m providing any value to my clients go, Well, I’m glad he’s not my advisor, you know what I mean? It’s just.
John Yeah, right.
Bill The big piece of it.
John Yeah, well, part of it is you get, you know, you’re so used to your business, so I can almost I can empathize with that type of person where you’ve just been doing your business so long, you almost it’s so natural to you. And what you’re talking about might even be so mundane because you’ve been talking about it for so many so long with so many different clients that you just don’t you almost lose sight of how valuable it is. So it’s sometimes easy to forget that. But to your point, ask. It’s amazing the responses you get right when you keep checking.
Bill If you’re always checking in on a regular basis, you make it part of how you develop your relationships with people. Yeah, you’ll never have to wonder. And then you’ll hear stuff you didn’t even expect to hear. And you’ll get better at it.
John Yeah, exactly. Well, and I always, you know, I think about there’s some, you know, so many things. We just do business with people through referrals. If I’m getting somebody to do landscaping work for me, I’m going to get a referral. If I’m looking to get a haircut at a new place, I’m gonna get a referral if I’m going to a doctor, many I mean, everything is really referral based. And most businesses out there, if not all people are just going to enjoy the experience. If they were, they already don’t have to build the trust, their trust in the fact that somebody else has gone through that. You know, I know it’s, you know, my big business, a big part of my business and your business as well as doing keynote speeches. And I remember being on the other side of that hiring keynote speaker. And it’s a really big gamble. I mean, I’ve hired everyone and I’ve hired some of the ones that stunk. And it’s a big representation of you, especially if you’ve got a big conference going on that’s critical. So to know that somebody has already fields tested them with great response and loves them, they’re endorsing them. That’s what people are looking for. So why not help them get there hey, who else do you know who’s in this position? Well, you know.
Bill Yeah, I would say to everyone listening how do your best clients want to meet you? How do your best future clients want to meet you? Do they want to meet you through prospecting on LinkedIn? Yeah. I mean, it might produce a result now and then, but is that how they want to meet you? Probably not. Right. Do they want to meet you through direct mail seminars? Well, seminars can work for some people. I wouldn’t poo-poo them totally. And the truth is, at least in financial services, we know that 84% of folks who hire financial professionals, do it from a recommendation, from a friend, a family member, or a colleague, or a center of influence. So for me, it just kind of makes sense. Let’s build our business based on how people want to meet us. But double down on how people want to meet us. Hmm. I’ll never forget I was doing this a long time ago when I first got started in this part of my business. I did a lot of work for printing companies because I sold printing, and bought printing with the publishing company. I knew a lot about that world and I never did.
Bill I never forget it was a program. I won’t mention the guy’s name, but it’s in Saint Louis. And, and after I did a whole program on referrals and they’re all geared up, really. He says to me, This is sales manager. He says, This is great. I wish I had learned this 20 years ago. Yada, yada, yada, great. By the way, can you come back again and do something on cold calling? And they go time now, right? Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be willing to get on the phone and make a cold call if we think we can provide value. But let’s put most of our eggs in the basket that we know works and produces the best quality clients. And that’s the introduction from someone else they already trust.
John Yeah, exactly. Well, it took me a I think I’m going to say four or five years of being in business before I really saw the power of it. And I’m like, okay, this is really dumb. I’m making all of it. At that time I was doing cold calling and I’m like, I’m making all these phone calls. I mean, all day long, all night Saturdays too, when in reality I could take that 20 hours a week I was prospecting and condense it down to half an hour, an hour of asking for the right referrals and following a meticulous process and follow up and everything like that. And it just changed my whole game, my whole business transformed. And I then from that on tight advisors, I’ll say you can get to a point in a year where it would take you otherwise three or four or five or six years to get. If you’re truly passionate and committed to referrals and being referable and following a process.
Bill Yep. That’s it.
John Yeah. Crazy. What? And just switching gears, I know we’re running a little short on time, but I want to just get your perspective and a couple of thoughts on this. For leaders that are leading organizations, this is kind of striking a nerve and they’re like, you know, how are we going to get better at this? We’ve really got, you know, whether it’s our refer ability or we’re very referable, but we’re really not being proactive with it. What are some of the things that a leader can do to start to drive the culture of their organization to be more referral focused?
Bill Yeah, well, clearly the first thing you want to look at is are you getting some unsolicited referrals to slash introductions. Are some of that happening? Because that’s a bit of a barometer on the refer, ability, referrals, and repeat, right? That’s kind of a barometer on the on the existing relationships. Some people are familiar with the Net Promoter Score concept, you know, and people come to me and say, but we have these high net promoter scores. We have, you know, about 80% of our customers say they’d be willing to recommend this to others and they go, great. How are you leveraging that? Well, that’s why we’re coming to you because we’re not sure how to leverage that. We know we’re sitting on a goldmine of opportunity. So. The first thing you do is communicate with the entire company. This is part of our vision, our mission. Right?
Bill One of our missions or vision, I don’t know which one you put it under, but is to build a business to sustain a business based on repeat and referral business. Right. That we can actually lower our marketing budget over time because so much business is coming from repeat and referrals. It has to be more than repeat because it always need new blood, right? Coming into the organization in different ways. And sometimes it’s the referral process that allows you to move and to get the right types of people coming in. Unsolicited referrals are great, but they’re not always enough and or they’re not always the right one. So that’s where that proactivity also plays. So the first thing is just to make make the decision from a leadership level and then to figure out, right, what, what are the components, what goes into this? You know, looking at the three stages of the relationships, are we doing everything we can to enhance those from a value and a relationship standpoint?
Bill And then are we being proactive when the organization is in the best place to be proactive? And let me address that real quick because I’ve turned down business people come to me and say, but, you know, we have you know, we have all these customer service reps, client service reps, and they have the deepest relationships with the clients and we need them to be asking for referrals. And I said, Yeah, I agree. They probably have the best relationships. And they’re in client service and not sales for a reason because their brains are wired in a certain way. No, nothing bad. Nothing wrong at all. You need those people. But to get those people to be proactive, it’s an uphill battle. Now, some people might grab it, might do it, and they’ll do well. But I’ve actually turned down business because I knew that my client would be disappointed with the results.
Bill So figuring out who’s going to be doing the asking, who’s the best person to be doing the asking? And so so what do you do with those client service people that get to know the relationship? Well, they work in tandem with the sales rep. Right. You communicate together and you figure out how it’s done. You don’t let it go and say, no, don’t do it. You just work as a team approach to make sure the right person is doing it. Mm-hmm. So, I mean, that’s just a couple of other things. I guess the final thing on that question is. As you, as you’re getting referrals, recommendations, and introductions are all kinds of cousins to each other. Make sure you’re getting connected. Make sure you really are getting introduced and connected. This word of mouth is great. Occasionally that will turn into new business. But for most businesses, unless you’re like a restaurant, perhaps word of mouth isn’t enough. Not enough. Not always the right people. So that’s where you got to make sure you facilitate those great connections. So those are two things.
John I love that with our last couple of minutes before I throw the last question around how people can get in touch with you? Because I know they want to. Do you want to demonstrate the referral script? I don’t want to give away the store, but I know there’s a lot more than just the script, but it’s a phenomenal approach. Do you want to roleplay with me?
Bill Yeah, I can do that. I’ll set the scene for me. Who are you? What kind of client of mine are you and? what have we done? Real quick.
John Let’s say that you’re a financial advisor and I’m your client. I’ve been working with you now for a year. You’ve made a difference in my life. Let’s hear how you might approach that.
Bill Sure. Yeah. So, John, you see, the next item on our agenda is what I like to call value discussion. Here’s what I mean by this. Think about the last year of us working together as well as today’s meeting. Where do you feel the value is coming? What would aha’s that you had or what feels good to you about the work we’ve done so far?
John I mean, a lot of it I just feel like I’ve got a plan now and I didn’t have that before. I feel like I’ve got ongoing advice that I didn’t have somebody to help me steer away from the bad decisions and make better decisions. So I feel I’ve got a lot more confidence because of all that.
Bill Great. And obviously, if if we ever drop the ball and fall short on anything, please let us know. And we love to hear what we are doing. Right? So we can keep doing that for you and for others. And with that in mind, I have an important question to ask you, because, you know, the value of this work, you’ve seen it firsthand. And there’s a lot of folks, successful, smart people like yourself out there putting off making the right decisions or maybe they’re getting bad or incomplete advice. And so I’m always on a mission to reach more folks and help them make educated decisions as you have. I have a couple of ideas I want to run by us and people you’ve mentioned in previous meetings just to see if you might be willing to introduce me to them, assuming we come up with a comfortable approach. Can I run a couple of ideas by it? I’d be okay.
John Yeah, absolutely.
Bill Well, I just keep thinking about your sister and brother-in-law, and I know that she’s a physician. He’s an attorney. I think I got that right. I remember you telling me how successful and busy they are. And whenever I hear successful and busy, I’m thinking I’m wondering if they’re taking the time that John is taking to make all the smart decisions and the educated decisions. But assuming we come up with an approach that feels comfortable because we want everyone to feel comfortable with it. Would you be open to that? Can we talk a little more about your sister and brother and see if that makes sense?
John Yeah, sure. I don’t know their situation. Don’t know if they’re working with somebody already, but yeah, I’m certainly willing to make an introduction.
Bill Well, it’s possible they are. We don’t know. They may be working with someone and they’re happy and fine. They may be working with someone and not happy. We just don’t know it. Mm-hmm. I would just say, at least they should be aware of me and what we do, and then we’ll talk and see if that makes sense. So I want to learn a little more about them. We’ll talk about the method of introduction so everybody feels comfortable. Mm-hmm. I was also thinking about your Uncle Ernie. Uncle Ernie, as a small business owner, you told me he survived COVID pretty well. I went to his website. Looks like he’s doing well. He’s from the website. Mm-hmm. Again, assuming we come up with the right approach for an introduction, how do you feel about introducing me to him?
John Yeah. I mean, I think that would definitely make sense. I know he’s recently talked about some issues that he’s had, and I have frustrations with the markets and all that kind of stuff. So I think he definitely is unguided right now.
Bill Yeah. So let’s work on those first and just. Mm-hmm. Just know, any time you hear anyone expressing frustration, concern, angst with inflation, with the volatile market, with whatever. Am I going to have enough to retire? Mm-hmm. Just know that I’m never too busy to see if I can be a resource for them. Never happy, never too busy to take. At least have a conversation with them to see if I can help in any way. But let’s talk a little more about your system. So we’ll stop for now. But yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of ways we can go with it, but that’s the essence. Cummings Specific coming prepared to let you know I’ve come prepared with sometimes sparks interest and curiosity on your part. Yeah. And emphasizing the fact that we’re going to make this a comfortable process. Mm-hmm. You heard me say that several times. Mm-hmm. Because I don’t want you thinking. Oh, I got to give him a phone number, and he’s going to call my sister and bugger. Right. Yeah. Even though they know that you probably wouldn’t do that, that’s where their unconscious goes. And then it. Yeah, that’s what’s.
John That makes a lot of sense. And I love that. Number one, it is targeted. It’s a lot better than if you just say, who do you know, you know? And all of a sudden I’m just racking my brain. You just. But when you’re that specific, it’s a yes or no and you’ve listened. You’ve paid attention. And it’s easier it’s a very it’s an easy ask, I think. So I really like that approach. Very smooth. I didn’t feel pressured. I didn’t feel put on the spot in any way. I love that approach and I think listeners will love that, too. Yeah, great stuff.
Bill Thank you. Yeah.
John Well, I know we could talk for 4 hours. There’s so much to this to this topic in particular. And maybe we’ll do a part two at some point. But for those listeners, but I know there’s a lot of them that are going to want to learn a little bit more about you and what you do. What’s the best place for them to go? How do they do that?
Bill Yeah, I guess I’ve got three potential links or places to go that hopefully, people will find helpful. Number one, if you are in the world of financial and. Misery, which I know a lot of your listeners are not all of them, but I’ve got a podcast that I’m loving and doing some great interviews with folks, high-level folks. www.topadvisorpodcast.com. I’ve got a guide, a free guide for everyone that encapsulates a lot of the things we’ve been talking about here and some other things that we didn’t get to. And that’s an exponential growth guide. E-Com www.exponentialgrowthguide.com. It’s free, but it’s valuable. And then my website www.referralcoach.com. Come visit or send me a message. Let’s chat.
John Awesome. I love it. Well, great, great stuff. I appreciate you sharing everything you did and I hope you keep us updated on everything. I know you and I are going to be certainly in contact and hopefully doing some great stuff together. But this has been fantastic. I appreciate you.
Bill And John, great. Great being with you today. Thanks.
John Yeah, and that’s all for tuning in today. We’ve been here with Bill Cates, referral master, author, podcaster, successful entrepreneur all around. Great guy. Appreciate his time. Appreciate your time as always. Like share, subscribe, go down below, give a five-star review and give us ideas on future guests and future topics that you love to hear. And we’ll see you next time. Thanks.
John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!