Tag Archives: sales

Building your Business through Referrals & Recommendations


I think these are some of the fundamental abilities and personal qualities required to be successful in selling (the list below is not meant to be exhaustive, by any means):


1. The ability to build relationships

2. The ability to deliver first class service

3. The ability to ask intelligent questions

4. The ability to think strategically

5. Self discipline

6. Self motivation

7. Tenacity


The ability to build relationships has been placed at the top of the list to reflect the fact that most businesses achieve great success through building and maximising relationships by taking them a step further than the simple transactional context which may have initiated the relationship.


Every relationship you enter into with clients and every contact you make with candidates has the potential to lead you to other relationships and other candidates, and this helps to put the platform in place for the long term growth of your business.


According to Bill Cates, in his book, ‘Get More Referrals Now’, you must constantly think in terms of how you can leverage each relationship and each contact to move beyond the basics of the situation and the specific service agreement that brought you together in the first place.


This will lead you to more and more business opportunities that few other consultants will have access to and more and more candidates than most other consultants will never know. Cates believes that ‘you must develop a referrals mind-set’ and he goes on to set out the key steps you need to take to build your business by referrals and recommendations:


Step 1:  Develop an Attitude of Service


What can you do to make yourself more referable through the service you provide? Where else can you add value for your clients and candidates? What can you do differently from other consultants? What can you do to gain your client’s trust and loyalty?


Step 2: Think ‘Process’ over ‘Product’ and ‘Referrals’ over ‘Activity’


Selling a service in itself does not make you referable and delivering a result is not what makes a client want to do business with you again. It is the process of doing business with you and the memorable experience this creates that makes you referable. That is, you need to have a clearly defined process by which you deliver results and which clearly adds value to your clients – this is what they will remember and talk about. Your process differentiates you, and if it is one you have named and defined, clients can get it only from you. 


Step 3: Master the Power of Leverage


The traditional approach to prospecting and canvassing has been compared to a pipeline or a funnel. Selling would be about keeping the front end of the pipeline loaded up with new prospects through high levels of cold calls and forcing them through the pipeline, with many not making it out the other end.


This is activity based prospecting and is a numbers game. It is a model that produces results, but it requires a great deal of time, effort and sustained cold calling – with little guarantee of success. It is the model adopted by consultants who spend their time working on pure contingency assignments and they become trapped in the dog fight among the competition.


Having activity is of course absolutely vital, but what you need to do is shift your thinking away from an activity based process to a relationship based process. You need to be thinking more about how this relationship can lead you on to more relationships and more opportunities and referrals – maximising the opportunities right in front of your nose – rather than thinking ‘how can I close this sale’, ‘how can I keep my pipeline full with more prospect customers’.


Step 4: Strategic Networking


Identify and meet the right people in your industry that have the ability to do business with you and refer other business and other people in the industry to you. The ability to build relationships does not just stop with the clients and candidates you are working with – it extends to the people you are able to be introduced to through networking events and situations. The ability to sell in this case requires the ability to turn your relationships into a successful network. Not every contact will be one who wants to do business with you; but they will have contacts who may want to business with you; or they may be able to offer you their advice, support and guidance in your business. Every contact is worth something to you and you to them.  


Step 5: Target Niche Markets


Finally, you need to target a niche market and cultivate a reputation for yourself as an expert in that market. Learn everything you can about the market, find out who the main players are and understand the market trends. Having a high level of expertise in a niche market will enable you to add value in a way that goes well beyond the value that other consultants can add. By doing this, referrals will start to come through and recommendations will be given without even asking for them.



Putting all of this together should be fairly straightforward for a recruitment consultant looking to grow his business and offers some excellent and sound advice. However, what I would add is that the type of approach expounded by Cates and many others must be viewed as a longer term strategy to growing your business. In the shorter term you need to be doing some of the hard graft on the phone to get introductions to new customers and there will be times when this approach appears similar to the ‘funnel’ approach that Cates urges us to shift away from. Ultimately I agree with Cates; but this should be regarded as the long term plan, and in the mean time I believe we also need to have a short term one…and the range of fundamental skills and personal qualities applicable to the long term approach are equally applicable to the short term approach.



Liam Conway


*(McGraw-Hill 2004)

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Understanding Motivation & Achieving Top Performance


Traditionally, theories of motivation have been based around the very simplistic and naive ‘Carrot’ or ‘Stick’ dichotomy. This way of understanding how motivation works seems to be central to the management style and approach found in many recruitment agencies and in sales companies in general.  


In recruitment it is generally believed that consultants can be motivated either by offering huge bonus incentives and rewards to make us want to work harder. How many canvassing competitions have you had to sit through to watch one of the consultants win a bottle of wine or a random gift voucher? In such cases, the reward or incentive offered is extrinsically related to the activity itself.  


Alternatively, you may have worked in the type of agency where it is believed that consultants are better motivated by a forceful boss, who makes it clear that failure to achieve targets will mean being micro-managed, being put on an action-plan or eventually being dismissed.


The carrot approach works by attracting people towards success by offering rewards and the stick method works by pushing people towards success by letting them know in no uncertain terms how terrible it will be for them if they fail.


Do these theories reflect reality? According to Raj Persaud in ‘The Motivated Mind’*, in the vast majority of cases, particularly at work, they are doomed for failure from the outset. Why is this? According to Persaud, the reason is that they fail to acknowledge the vital factors that actually motivate people at work and they take root within working environments and cultures that will ultimately fail to bring about successful and excellent levels of performance. What are the vital motivational factors at work?


  • Achievement of our performance and learning goals
  • Recognition for successes and achievements of our goals
  • Responsibility for one’s own work in striving towards our goals
  • Career Progression opportunities as a result of prior achievements
  • Personal Development and further learning opportunities


Persaud goes on to explain that our motivational factors may be a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic motivational factors are those which generate our self belief, our confidence and reasons for taking action from within. In recruitment, we could say that these may be factors such as having pride in our ability to understand and build rapport with other people in interviewing or selling to them, or our enjoyment of drilling down to the root of problems and developing compelling recruitment solutions which will deliver results.


Extrinsic motivational factors are those which drive our behaviour from outside. These may be the knowledge that we will get a promotion if we achieve our targets or the congratulations we may receive from our colleagues if we get a high value placement. Being motivated from purely intrinsic reasons means we are compelled to take action for reasons internal to the activity itself, something we find interesting or enjoyable about engaging in this activity to a high standard; being motivated from purely extrinsic reasons means we are compelled to take action for reasons external to the activity itself, something we do the activity to gain or achieve, that has little or nothing to do with engaging in the activity itself, such as extra bonus or praise from one of our colleagues.


Knowing which factors motivate you most at work is important in understanding how to improve your levels of motivation. For example, we all know how tough recruitment can be, particularly in weak markets, so how can you improve your motivation to work hard at achieving your sales targets?


You may want to start by sitting down and working out where your individual strengths and talents lie. Then try to work out how your strengths and talents can provide you with the necessary tools and drive to improve your performance. Working out the latter should then form a foundation for other key motivational factors to come into play, namely recognition from your colleagues, personal growth and development, further learning opportunities, and so on.


Example: if you have the objective of winning repeat business from one of your clients in order to turn it into a key account, your motivation for doing so may, among other factors, be partly based around a desire to nurture and maximise one of your key strengths of being able to build outstanding customer relationships and engage customer loyalty. Or rather it may be based around the desire to increase your levels of business with them in order to gain congratulations from your colleagues or gain greater levels of commission.


Whatever your motivations are, you need to work out what works best for you and draw on your strengths, talents and ambitions, whatever they may be, to drive you towards improvements in your performance at work. Whether you are more motivated by external factors or intrinsic factors doesn’t really matter. But it does matter that you understand the source of your motivation and that your boss understands you enough to work out a means of helping you achieve what you need to achieve at work.


Liam Conway

*(Bantam Press 2005)

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