It is my pleasure to have Tom Kelly with us today. For nearly two decades, Tom has coached thousands of salespeople, entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives–including myself! With laser focus, he provides clients with the tools, support, and structure to set bold goals, sharpen their focus, and achieve optimal results.
In our conversation, we explore common myths around referrals. Tom discusses how he has crafted effective referral systems, transforming haphazard word-of-mouth into a systematic growth driver. He outlines his proven framework for generating and converting referrals, from pre-framing expectations to nurturing referral partners.
Tom also shares his highly effective processes for networking events, leveraging text-to-screen tools to collect leads seamlessly. He stresses the importance of having systematic techniques rather than hoping for referrals. Tom offers invaluable insights on sales and onboarding processes, highlighting how small distinctions can make a world of difference.
Join us for an eye-opening discussion as Tom imparts decades of coaching wisdom to help professionals and businesses thrive. The insights you’ll gain today will leave you eager to implement impactful changes. So, without any further ado, on with the show!
In This Episode
- [01:53] – Stephan welcomes Tom Kelly to share his expertise on referral systems, having coached 1000s of clients on generating and converting referrals.
- [03:53] – Tom emphasizes the role of mindset in personal and business growth, highlighting the importance of shifting one’s psychology to achieve desired results.
- [07:44] – Stephan and Tom dive into referral systems and their significance in business growth, with Tom giving examples of systems in sales, marketing, and operations.
- [12:08] – Stephans asks for an example of a sustainable and reproducible system for referrals Tom has implemented.
- [17:44] – Stephan learns to track marketing sources for better ROI.
- [23:03] – Tom explains how they connect with a larger audience through events, capturing potential clients more effectively than one-on-one networking.
- [33:16] – Tom talks about the tool he uses to collect contact information from attendees and market it to them later.
- [40:30] – Tom discusses his process involving a four-step sale process during initial coaching calls.
- [44:39] – Stephan and Tom explain the advantages of a structured onboarding process for increasing close rates and simplifying sales.
- [49:43] – Stephan and Tom highlight the intake packet’s role in establishing credibility with clients, especially during the consulting process.
Stephan, it’s my pleasure. I appreciate you inviting me to the show, and I look forward to our discussion today.
We know each other through Tony Robbins’s world and through different folks who have been in the Tony Robbins Platinum Partnership and then their business, the different kinds of programs that Tony has put on, and also some of the events and training that he doesn’t personally show up to, such as leadership.
I know a number of people through that environment, and that’s how we connected. I think it was probably a decade ago. Does it seem that long ago to you?
I want to think about 2010 or so when we met at a business master. I heard you speak about search engine optimization (SEO) in that, and afterward, I came up and introduced myself, and the rest is history. I thought you did a great presentation there, and there was a lot of good stuff. I was happy to make your acquaintance, and that started along, you know, what has it been 13 years? Long friendship and relationship.
Amazing. I forgot that that’s how we met. I thought we were introduced, but you’re right. You came up and introduced yourself.
Yeah, Business Mastery. That was a long time ago. Let’s talk a little about some of the distinctions, ideas, and strategies you gleaned from Tony and from being part of that world, attending events like Business Mastery and being a coach for Tony for a number of years as well. What were some of the key highlights that you learned?
Your business results are the product of 80% mindset or psychology and 20% mechanics or strategy.
It’s interesting because I came into the Tony Robbins realm after I had been a coach for quite a while. I’d been coached for about eight or nine years before I came on board as a coach for Tony Robbins. He brought me on mainly because of my business background. He wanted to get more into business coaching, and I came on board to help him do that. We were successful with that.
Interestingly, I think the biggest thing I took away from Tony Robbins was the importance of mindset. He talks about anything you do in life. Any result you create is 80% mindset or psychology and 20% mechanics or strategy. The mechanics part is that 20% is the how-to part, and most people come into my realm as a business coach and want to know how to do something. “How do I grow my business? How do I set up a business? How do I generate more referrals, more on the life coaching side? How do I become a better person or solve some of these problems in my life?”
But the reality is that the how-to part is the easy part. It’s the mindset that’s 80%. If you can get the mindset right, then you can become unstoppable. That’s what Tony preaches and talks about, and it helps people.
I’ll give you an example of something mindset-related that I only recently learned about, and it’s just brilliant. I really believe it’s true. That is FOMO–-fear of missing out creates the missing out. That there is no missing out. Everything is divinely guided, orchestrated, and unfolding perfectly, and you’re getting exactly what you need at exactly the right time and exactly the right way.
If you can only make one day of Business Mastery and go anyway, you will get exactly what you’re meant to get from that one day, even though you missed a whole bunch of sessions. Unless you have FOMO–that false evidence appearing real–that things will happen and be amazing, you will miss them because you aren’t there for the rest of the event.
I just recently learned that. It was articulated in a video I watched from Darryl. It’s in the spirituality space. His name is Darryl Anka, and he channels. He receives stuff psychically. I’ve seen some of his videos, and I got this great nugget. It was about FOMO, and having FOMO creates the actual missing out.
That’s fascinating. It’s interesting to me because I’ve held for a long time that everything happens for a reason, and it serves us. It syncs up with what you’re talking about, but Tony Robbins talks about this as if you create what you focus on. If you’re focused on missing out, that’s what you’re going to create, and you’re not living in that present moment and experiencing what you’re supposed to be experiencing because your mind is concerned about and worried about what is missing. That’s a shame because I think people miss out a lot because of that.
You create what you focus on.
What is it that Tony says where focus goes, energy flows?
Yes, exactly. It’s so important because I think when you talk about business owners and marketing and things like that, that mindset piece is so important, having an intention of what you want to do from a marketing perspective and then actually aligning your actions with your intentions so that you can make that come true is really where I think a lot of people miss out, especially when it comes to word of mouth marketing.
Many talk about word-of-mouth marketing as the greatest way to grow your business. To me, word-of-mouth marketing is crossing your fingers and hoping that you’ll get clients because it’s really not a systematic way to generate business. One of the things that I teach and do a lot with my clients is the importance of having systems in your business and the mindset and intention of leveraging those systems to grow your business. That’s super important.
What examples of those systems and teaching points would you give your clients?
Well, if you’ve ever read the E-Myth by Michael Gerber, he talks about this. If you want to be able to run a successful business, you have to have a scalable client acquisition system, which means sales and marketing, and you have to have a scalable client fulfillment system, which means operations, being able to fulfill that promise to your client. In my experience, most business owners come to the table with an approach or a system for fulfilling their promise to the client, but where they don’t have a strong system is on the sales and marketing side of the business.
They often get stuck with a great business and service or product, but they can’t scale that because they don’t have enough clients. The first two I always start with are, “What does your client acquisition system look like? Is that working for you?” Then, on the other hand, “How about your client fulfillment system?”
By the way, both of those things are complementary to each other. You could have a great client acquisition system that generates sales and brings customers in. But if you don’t fulfill the customer’s needs, they will just go out the back door. Eventually, as Gerber talks about in his book, your business collapses because it’s not consistent.
By the way, Michael was a guest on this podcast.
Oh, interesting. Big Michael Gerber fan.Consistency of experience is the key to earn trust and gain referrals from your clients. Click To Tweet
It’s a must-read book for any business owner or someone who wants to start a business because it teaches the fundamentals of scaling.
I’ve had several guests who followed him on later episodes talking in depth about the E-Myth and how to implement systems based on Michael Gerber’s teachings like David Jenyns.
It’s interesting to me that with technology, our short-term memory often elapses because we have everything at our fingertips. Oftentimes, I think that when you’re talking, that name escapes us because we know it’s right on the internet or on the end of our phone.
Interesting. That’s one of the things I love about you, Stephan. You’ve had access to all these great people and minds and brought many of these people on your podcast. I heard some of these names drop, and I got to dig into them, read their books, and find out what they’re all about. There are always some gems in there.
I’m really quite fortunate to have had the kinds of caliber of guests on the show that I’ve had over these eight years. It’s a labor of love, but I do get a lot out of it personally and give back to the world. Why don’t we go into some depth on referrals because this is an area of expertise and focus for you? You’ve been creating referral systems for your clients for a number of years. You have referral systems in place for your own business. Let’s talk about the importance of referrals, how that fits into the overall marketing picture, and what your framework looks like.
A reliance on technology often reduces our short-term memory because we have everything at our fingertips.
What’s interesting about referrals is word-of-mouth marketing. If you look at this, there’s a word-of-mouth marketing association. They did a study on this, and they said 84% of marketing executives feel that referrals and word-of-mouth marketing are the best way to get business, but only 6% of them felt that they’ve mastered it.
It’s interesting because people say word-of-mouth marketing is the greatest way to grow your business. I said, “Well, great. How does that work?” Most business owners will just show up and talk about my business, and then I get referrals that way like it’s some kind of magic or something.
In certain cases, if you have a fantastic business and customers who are evangelists, that’s how it works. But for most of us, if we don’t have a system, a predictable way to generate referrals, it’s not sustainable, and it’s not consistent.
One of the things you have to do to generate referrals is have a process for that, and that’s one of the myths I talk about. Word-of-mouth marketing is crossing your fingers and hoping that people will show up. That’s not a great way to grow your business. A referral process and system are great ways to grow your business.
The other thing that I think that’s interesting that I talk about that’s a myth is that referrals happen after the sale. Most people say, “Gee, someone is coming into my restaurant, and they experience what I do, or they experience my product or service.” Then, at some point after they’ve experienced that, that’s when the referral comes.
The reality is that they’re determining whether or not they will refer you from the moment they meet you through that entire process and then through every time they interact with your business. If you don’t have a consistent process to serve and wow those clients, they won’t refer you to the business.
Even if you do, if you look at the statistics, about 20% of your customers will give you a referral without you even asking, another 20% will never give you a referral, and 60% are in between. I always talk about this. To grow your business, you want to target that 60%. If you have a process to do that, you can turn this into a predictable, sustainable, and consistent way to grow your business.
What would be an example of a sustainable and reproducible system for referrals that you’ve implemented?
Let’s talk about that. But before we do, let’s examine why or why people do not give you referrals. Do you know the number one reason why people don’t give you a referral?
You have to have a process to successfully generate referrals.
The number one reason is because they’re afraid you will damage their reputation. Imagine for a second you have a great client flying in tonight, and you’re going to talk about a new business deal that you might do, so you’re going to take them out to dinner. You have this great restaurant that you and your wife love to go to. Two out of the three times you go there, you have the best meal you’ve ever had, but 30% of the time, you have an awful experience.
Are you going to take your customer to that restaurant? No. Why not? Because you’re afraid that you will hit them 30% of the time.
I can’t take the risk.
Exactly. People, number one, are worried about their personal reputation. Unless they understand and know that you’re going to protect that reputation and they trust you, they’re not going to refer to your business. One of the things that I talk about when we start with referrals is number one: are you referable? Do you have a business? Are you providing a client with a product or service that wows them so they’re willing to refer you?
The key thing here is consistency of experience. If I have a consistent experience every time, then I’m going to trust that whoever I refer to will have that same level of experience. That’s super important, being referable.
Number two, especially for people on the service side of the business, but even on the product side, is having an onboarding process. What type of process do you use when you onboard a client? For example, in my coaching practice, I use the same process I’ve been using since 2002. Why do I do that?
Well, I’m a master of it because I’ve done it thousands of times. I’ve been able to track and measure the success of that and optimize that. By the way, I am close to 90% of the people who do a complimentary coaching session with me because I’ve mastered that process and know how to do that.
One of the things that I do in that process is I pre-frame the fact that I’m looking for referrals, and I enjoy referrals from my clients, so I’m setting the table or setting that expectation right up front. There are several reasons I do that. Number one, I want to ensure that they know that that’s how I grow my business, and I’d like to grow it.
Statistics show that 20% of customers provide referrals for free, 20% do so when asked, and 60% fall in between. To target the 60%, build a process that can turn into a predictable, sustainable, and consistent way to grow your business.
Number two, I want to hold myself accountable for that. In that first interaction with that client, I’ll have a conversation with them that goes something like this:
“Stephan, I’m glad that we’re meeting today, and before we get started, I wanted to explain to you a little bit about how I work and make money and get paid. Today, we’re going to do a complimentary coaching session together, and we’re going to get to know each other. We will do a little coaching so you can experience what I do. But more importantly, I’m going to answer any questions. Then, by the time we’re done today, we will decide if we will work together. If we decide to hire me as your coach, one way I can make money is if you’ll pay me for that, and I will try to create outstanding results with you. The other way I get paid is through great quality referrals through my existing clients. In fact, that’s how you and I met today. I’m not expecting you to generate a referral for me today because we’re meeting for the first time. However, if you decide to hire me as your coach and we do some work together, if we fast forward three to six months from now and you’re getting outstanding results, would you be open to sharing your experience with others?”
What I’m doing there is I’m asking their permission upfront for referrals. Most people are going to say yes. When they do, I like to say, “Great. I don’t want to be presumptuous here and assume that you’re just going to generate a referral for me, so what needs to happen so that I can make you and help you have an outstanding result together? What would need to happen so that you’re jumping up and down, wanting to give me yours? What would that look like?”
What that does is they will answer that question and tell you a couple of things. First, they will tell you exactly what you need to do to earn their business. Now, right up front in that process, I know over that next hour I will spend with them what I need to focus on to earn their business.
Number two, if they decide to work with me as we move forward when those things happen, now I can circle back and remind them of that conversation and reinforce the work we’ve done together and say, “Hey, Stephan, when we first met, you said to have an outstanding experience, these three things need to happen. How are we doing with that?”
“Hey, Tom, this has been fantastic. We’ve done all those things. In fact, you’ve exceeded my expectations. My business has doubled this year.” “Great. Well, that’s fantastic. Now, I’d love to talk to you about who else might benefit from the service.”
What I’ve done there is I pre-framed that upfront. I did what I needed to do to ensure they had an outstanding experience, and now that I’ve earned that referral, I’m asking for that. That’s super important to have a process that you go through.
Then, once you have that process, the other thing I think is super important at the end is tracking and measuring your success. How is that system working? Then, once you track that for a couple of months, you have some benchmarks, and then you can optimize from there and make some changes to things and things like that. Those are the basics of how you would build a system like that. Obviously, I’m simplifying this, but that’s how I do it in my practice and how I teach other people.
One thing that we did together that was hugely valuable is you had me start tracking the efficacy of my lead sources. Things like speaking gigs and masterminds that I was a part of and networking, group functions where I would just go to as an attendee versus a speaker, and things that I would advertise different kinds of marketing sources. I thought things were performing well, but they weren’t.
After I started tracking it and then things that I was surprised by that they were so effective, I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to double down on these things.” And I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t been tracking those things. The client doesn’t necessarily remember where they met me or how they were referred to me.
It’s on me to make sure I grab that information out of them while it’s still fresh and then record it in the system so that I can track that and not say it in a spreadsheet and refer to it when I’m doing my planning for next year’s marketing. What events am I going to attend, where am I going to pitch to speak, where am I going to perhaps even exhibit or sponsor, et cetera, really, really valuable? You gave me a spreadsheet to use, if I recall correctly. Really good stuff.
I always recommend that people have four to six marketing weapons that they’re using, whether that’s speaking, referrals, networking, advertising, search engine optimization, or whatever those things are.
By tracking those things and figuring out, well, not only how they are working, but “How much money and time am I putting into these things? Am I getting a good return on my investment of time and money?” Then, how do those things stack up against each other so that we can focus on the top two or three and make those into systematized processes in your business? By a system, what I mean is I’m going to put in X amount of dollars in time, and I’m going to get out X return on that investment.
If you have a systematized process that gets you predictable results, now you have a scalable business and know exactly what works in your business to grow it. Then, it’s just a matter of how much I want to grow and how fast I want to go. And we can dial that in pretty quickly.
Yeah, what gets measured gets managed, as Peter Drucker supposedly said. I think it’s a myth, though, that he said that that was somebody else.
Somebody said it, and they’re right.
I totally take it on board. I want to track stuff. I want to track my sleep. When we did business coaching, we’d talk about my personal areas of life, too, and I remember you coaching me in my sleep as well. I’m like, “What gets measured gets managed. Let’s work on that.”
The number one reason why people don’t give you a referral is because they’re afraid you will damage their reputation.
Absolutely. It’s funny. You bring that up because several years ago, I was having horrible problems sleeping, and I ended up going to the doctor, and I told him I thought I had restless legs. He said, “Well, why do you think you have that?” He said, “Yeah, you know what? You probably do.” Oddly enough, the doctor has the same issue.
I also said to him, “I think I might have sleep apnea as well.” He said, “Why do you say that?” I said, “Well, because I brought this issue up with my family.” A number of people in my extended family have sleep apnea. He said, “Well, you don’t fit the profile. But if you want, we’ll do a sleep study.” We did a sleep study. It turns out I have sleep apnea and restless legs.
Now, it’s interesting they gave me one of these CPAP machines. I use that every night, but I now have an app that tracks my sleep, not only a Fitbit that does that but also a CPAP machine. I’ve got that dialed in now, and I get a good seven and a half to eight hours a night, and it works great.
I’ve solved that issue because, as you said, I track and measure and see what’s working and what’s not and have been able to dial that in. Not only does that work in your business, but it also works outside of work.
Do you know what else was important for you in that scenario? You trusted your intuition. You didn’t have a basis for saying I have sleep apnea, I think, or I have restless leg syndrome or anything like that. You just trusted your intuition and went with it and got it checked out, and sure enough, that was the case, so you could get ahead of it.
You bring up a great point. I always tell people, especially females, that women’s intuition is never wrong. Your intuition is there to tell you something, and it also comes into play in your business. Intuition will often lead you down a path that will help you improve your business and get better results. It’s important to be kind of dialed into that and kind of really understand what your mind and your intuition are telling you.
Yeah, for sure. Again, thank you for the amazing marketing weapons, the tracking spreadsheet template you gave me, and the coaching to get me to start tracking that stuff. It’s hugely valuable and massively paid for your investment in your services.
One thing I also want to point out or get your take on and back to this idea of a referral system is where service providers fit in because I do get service providers like other industry colleagues, vendors, contractors that I’ve used, etc., referring business to me as well. How do you systematize that?
Service and product professionals have an onboarding process.
I’m glad you brought that up because I think one of the best ways to generate referrals is through power partnerships. I define a power partnership as partnering with another business that focuses on the same client base you do but doesn’t compete with you.
I had a great one years ago when I partnered with a digital marketing company. It kind of came about indirectly. We were in a networking group together, and he came up to me and said, “Tom, you’re great at presenting in front of people. I would love to learn better presentation skills, and I’d love to work with you on that if you could mentor me.” I said, “Sure, no problem.”
As we started doing that, I said, “You know what? There’s a great opportunity here for us to partner because we serve the same client base.” A lot of my clients are just starting. They need a website. I can refer you to many businesses and clients for whom you’re building websites and doing digital marketing or need business coaching. We took a look at that and a couple of things that I think were important.
Number one, again, my reputation is on the line, so it comes back to that reputation thing again. “Can I trust the person I’m partnered with or the business I’m partnered with to provide excellent service to my clients?”
If you can’t answer yes, it will probably not be a good partnership. It starts with making sure that you’re on board with that. From there, I often hear this like, “Hey, Tom, I’ve got a bunch of partners that I refer business to, but I never get that business reciprocated.” I think there are a couple of reasons for that.
Number one, again, are you referable? Are they confident? Do they trust you? But again, do you have a system that works and will benefit both of you? One of the things that I did with this company was we decided not only to partner and share referrals but also to do some joint marketing together.
We put together a seminar called Internet Marketing 101. How to turn your website into a client generation machine. It was a half-day seminar. He did two hours of it. I did the other two hours. We would go out and partner with chambers of commerce and business associations and things like that and come in and do these workshops.
What we did was we would have the third party, whether it was a chamber of commerce or business association or whatever, they would market this to their constituents. They would provide us with the room and market us to their constituents. We would fill the room with our clients and the people they invited. We would cut them in on half the profits. We would charge $75 or $100 a head. I can’t remember exactly what we charged, but we would give 50% to the house. Then, my partner and I would split the other 50%.
We would do these seminars, and then at the end of the seminar, he would offer a program to go in and do a website audit for them to identify areas of opportunity. I had a three-month coaching program on implementing what they just learned. This was a super simple way for us to generate referrals because I would invite people I thought would be a great fit for him. He would do the same for me.
Then, whoever’s hosting this would bring in business people with that concern and wanted to grow their business, so we had a pre-qualified target audience of, say, 100 people, and then we just invited them to take the next step.
That’s the other key, I think, too, in generating referrals in your business: you have to make it easy for people. If it’s a challenge to refer you and if it’s not easy to talk about your business, for example, let’s say you’re a therapist, it’s not easy to go up to your friend and say, “Hey, I want to refer you to my therapist because then you’re assuming that they have some kind of problem,” you have to come up with a way to market your business and talk about your business in a way that’s palatable for people and makes them want to work.
How would you handle that?
If you have a systematized process that produces predictable results, you have a scalable business.
As far as the therapist goes? That’s a great question. I think the best way to do that is just to share a personal story. Stephan, I give you a great one that we just talked about. “Hey Stephan, I have been suffering from sleeping problems for quite a while. I went to my doctor and talked to him about this restless leg thing, and I would bring this up, and people would laugh at me. They thought I was crazy.”
He said, “No, you actually have that issue. I also thought I had sleep apnea, and he didn’t think so, but he gave me this sleep study, and I went to the doctor, and this is what they found out. The result is now I’m sleeping soundly eight hours a day. I’ve got tons of energy, and my life is great.”
Suppose that person has that problem. Sharing that story builds a lot of trust there, and they’ll probably ask you who your doctor is. “I have that same problem. How could you help me with that?”
It makes it easy to do that versus saying, “You need to go to a sleep doctor.” It’s a little bit more of an obtrusive way to do that. I think you’ve got to make it easy and figure out how to describe your business or put it in a way that people can relate to and make it easy to refer to the business. I think, really, with partners, it’s about both of you committing to how we will do this. What’s our intention here? How will we grow this relationship and be intentional about partnering together? And how do we ensure it’s a win-win for both of us?
Well said. When you give these workshops, whether it’s in partnership with another service provider, or it’s just on your own, or just any type of speaking gig really, I know you have a system for collecting leads that’s quite effective so you get a lot of the people in the room to give you their contact info, even though you didn’t necessarily get it from the organization that’s putting on the event.
A lot of times, the coordinator for the speakers or the conference is not keen on giving their attendee list to the speakers, but you find a way to get most people in the room to give you their email address. Do you want to elaborate?
Absolutely. This started way back when I first started my business. I thought, “Well, who’s my target audience?” Salespeople, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. I asked where these people hang out. The first answer that came to mind was the local chamber of commerce.
I started going to these chamber of commerce things where you’d network, or they’d have a ribbon cutting or something like that, and I found it was tremendously ineffective because you’re trying to meet people one-to-one. You’re really at happening stans, who happens to be at that event. Only about 10% of the people would be interested in what I was doing.
Your intuition comes into play and leads you down a path that will help you improve your business and get better results.
One of the things I quickly noticed was that every month, they would have an event like a luncheon where they’d have a speaker, and the speaker would get 45–60 minutes in the front of the room, captivating an audience of 100 people. I said, “Instead of one-to-one, one-to-one hundred is a much more effective way of doing this.”
Then, I started to connect the dots. In any given audience, if you’re lucky, and you know this from doing all the website and search engine optimization stuff you do, maybe if someone comes to your website, a great website might convert 2%–4% of the people. What happens to the other 96%? They bounce, and they’re probably never coming back.
I looked at that and said, “Well, gee, maybe in this audience of 100 people, one or two people could use my service right now. But all of these people might need my service at some point in the future. “How do I connect with them and get their contact information?”
The way I did it originally back in 2002 was just an 8.5 by 11 feedback sheet. What I would do at the end of a presentation I’d hand these things out, and I’d say, “Look, I’d love your feedback on the presentation, and I’m going to be drawing here for a month of complimentary coaching sessions.” I tell them the value of that. I said, “All you need to do is fill out this form, answer a couple of questions, send it up to the front, and we do a drawing,”
What would happen is they would all fill it out because they wanted to win the free prize. I would get their name, contact information, address, and phone number, and they’d give me some feedback.
The other great thing is they would come to the front of the room after we did the drawing. Whoever won the award and I’d give them a nice certificate. We’d have a photo op, shake hands, and then they put that picture in their next monthly newsletter from the chamber. I’d get some more publicity from that.
Then, the other thing that would happen is that all their friends in the chamber would say, “Hey, how’s the coaching going? Are you getting results? What’s it like working with Tom?” That worked really well.
Then, in 2010 or 2011, I was at Business Mastery with you, and one of the guys was talking about technology, and he used this great thing called text-to-stage. He’d pull out his cell phone and say, “Hey, I’m going to ask you a question, and all you need to do is pull out your cell phone, and it’s going to push this to your cell phone.” You can interact with the speaker on the stage.If you want to generate business referrals, build healthy relationships with your clients. Click To Tweet
Then I scrapped the 8.5 by 11 snail mail way of doing this, an old-fashioned way, and said, great, I can do text to stage. What do I do now when I present as I go up there and say, “Hey, you know what? This presentation is meant to be highly interactive, and I want to ensure you’ve got 100% attention and participate fully. I’m going to give you my slide deck, and all you need to do to get the slide deck is take out your phone and text message this keyword to this number.”
They all pull out their phones, text message it, and it pushes a question to him and says, “Hey, what’s your name? What’s your email address?” It grabs their name, phone number, and email address in about 30 seconds. Then, they automatically pushed my presentation right to their phone. They get a PDF of my entire presentation. I’ve collected everyone’s contact information.
What I do after the fact is the next day, I’ll send them some free bonuses via text, and then I also send them a link if they want to sign up for a complimentary coaching session, which is completely free of charge to them and I get a bunch of those people.
What’s also cool is it also integrates with all my email newsletter marketing and stuff like that. I grab all their contact information. It goes into my constant contact with MailChimp, and now I can market to these people. That’s another great example of a systematized approach to doing presentations that leads from that first opportunity to interact with someone to the long-term building of a relationship.
There’s a lot to unpack there. First, doing the text from the stage is very clever. I’ve done that many times myself. For example, a technology platform I would use is Leadpages, and the program inside of that is called LeadDigits. I don’t know if they even still offer that. I switched off that a while ago, but what system are you using?
I’ve been using a system called Call Loop. What I love about that is you can interchange different keywords. I have a presentation called the Attraction Principle; I just have the text to attract the keyword. You get assigned a specific number, and then they punch in that thing.
Then, you can set up an autoresponder right in their system. It’s super simple. That’ll push out those questions. “What’s your name? What’s your email address?” Then, you can use that system to text market to them.
Is it a short code or a full ten-digit phone number, or would it be a short code like 3344, which LeadDigits had?
Interestingly enough, it started as a short code. It was a five-digit code. Now that’s changed because the telecommunications companies changed it. What they did now is they made you have a set phone number. When you sign up, they give you a specific phone number, and it’s a 10-digit phone number. It still works. I like the shortcode better, but sometimes the rules change. You have to adapt a little bit.
Another thing I liked about what you described is that you gave a prize and told them its value. You’re trying to sell that prize to the other folks in the room. They know you’re pricing without you having to pitch it.
Absolutely, and they see the value in it. If you just give away something for free, there’s no value to that. It’s interesting, too. As I’m doing my presentation, I also loop in success stories, case studies, etc. By the time the presentation is done, they’re itching to do that free session, so I offer them a complimentary session, and I also raffle off a month of coaching sessions so that lucky person wins that.
The other important thing, Stephan, and it’s a key distinction here, is that most of the time, when you’re presenting for an organization, they don’t want you to promote yourself. You’re there to provide a presentation. They’re paying you for that.
Power partnerships generate referrals. Partner with another business (that isn’t your competition) with a mutual client base.
I include all that in my presentation as a bonus to the organization. I say, “Look, we’re going to spend an hour together, and I’m going to teach a certain subject, but I’m also going to offer everyone an hour of my time on a complimentary basis so that we can take what they learn in the presentation and apply it to their business.”
They look at that, and they say, “Wow, that’s an awesome value, so they’re more than happy to allow me to do those things, and I’m doing it in a way that’s adding value for everyone in the room so it’s not kind of sleazy or like a backdoor promotion technique.”
The other thing I think is super important is that there was a study that I often refer to in the presentations I do. It was done by a consulting firm in North Carolina several years ago, and they studied marketing. They found that the average person these days gets bombarded by between 3500 and 5000 marketing messages a day, and it takes 26 impressions to move someone from complete apathy to ready-to-buy.
To give you some context, back in the 80s, that number was 500 marketing messages a day, so we’ve 10x that, and we’ve gone from seven impressions to 26. That presentation, most of those people in the audience, this is the first time they’re interacting with me. That’s one impression. I’ve got to somehow get them to 26 impressions before they’re ready to buy from me.
The only way to do that is to plug them into a passive marketing system like an email newsletter. That’s why I grabbed their information. Then I put them into my newsletter system so that they get a newsletter every month, and over time, they return to me.
A funny story, oddly enough, about six months ago, I got a call. The guy left a voicemail on my cell phone. He said, “Hey Tom, I don’t know if you remember me.” We met back probably in 2003 or 2004, one of your presentations. I’ve been getting your newsletter ever since, and I love what you talk about in it. I’m ready to do some coaching with you.
I kind of chuckled, and I went back into my CRM. I found this guy, called him back, and said, “Yeah, I remember you.” We met in 2003 at my presentation on XYZ. He goes, “Oh my gosh, how do you remember that? You have a great memory.” I said, “No, you’re in my CRM,” so we laughed. I said, “Look, it’s taking over 20 years before you’re ready to work with me.” He’s like, “Yeah, I’m a little bit slow on the draw there.”
Long story short, he turned into a client of mine. It took 20 years and all those impressions, but he finally came on board. The point is that if you build a system, it will work. You just have to keep consistent with it and, month to month, do that, and you’re going to attract all the business you need.
That’s great. Is he still a client now?
No, he worked with me for about six months. He got some great results, and we parted ways. Although it’s interesting, much like yourself, many of my clients will stay with me for a little while; they’ll come back after a break and stuff like that.
I’ve been lucky enough to have long-term clients. In fact, my longest-term client has been with me since 2005, and she’s never missed a session. She shows up every month, and she’s doing some great work. It’s kind of interesting. I helped her start an accounting business back in 2004 or 2005. Now, we’re selling her accounting business, and she’s retiring. So, it took her through the whole life cycle of her business, which is fun.
Well, congratulations on that. That is quite a run. That’s very impressive.
I appreciate that. Thank you for that. One thing I want to emphasize here, though, and it’s really important, right? When you talk about word-of-mouth marketing, like before, that’s crossing your fingers and hoping people show up. We just gave a couple of examples of a marketing system that ensures that you make that first impression, then you make multiple impressions, and then those people come back to you.
It’s a great example of taking something and being consistent with it. When you do that, you’re going to get great results, and so that’s what I do with my clients is help them figure out what are those three or four things you can do on a month-to-month basis that is comfortable for you, that works for your business, and that’s going to help you grow and be consistent.
If you do that, you’ll get your business to a place where you don’t have to do much more to market yourself. You’ll have all the clients you can imagine, and that’s the mistake people make: they’re not consistent with their approach and systematic.
One of the ways that you track and replicate your success is by tracking your close rate on these initial sales conversations and free coaching calls like the initial coaching call, and then you’ll improve. You’ll course correct to get an even higher close rate, and now you’ve got incredible close rate percentages. Where did it start with you, and what key things made the biggest headway for you and your close rate?
You have to come up with a way to market and talk about your product or service in a way that’s palatable for people and makes them want to refer your business.
The first thing is having a process. First of all, the biggest mistake I think people make is they do it differently every time they’re trying to onboard something. They have no idea what’s working and what’s not working. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but they can’t put their finger on exactly what they’re doing.
I came up with a process and just started using that consistent process every time. What that does is it gets you so you’re super confident in what you’re doing. I don’t have to look at a sheet or read off a page. It just comes off my lips because I’ve done it a thousand times. It starts with that. Then, it starts with getting the baseline for where I am. I’m doing the system, and it’s getting me a 50% close rate. What do I need to do to improve that?
Then, I started adding some other things to it. I said, “Alright, I’m going to keep doing this, but I will add this piece and see how that affects the numbers. Are the numbers getting better, or are they getting worse?” And so that was helpful.
The other thing is just learning from others, being curious about what was working for other coaches and what was working for other businesses. Who’s knocking it out of the park, and what were they doing? I’ve always been a lifelong learner, so I’m constantly looking for what’s working for others and how to incorporate that and improve my processes and systems. That’s super important.
I think the other thing, too, which is a big distinction for me, especially from a coaching perspective, was that people called it a complimentary coaching session. What many coaches do is they’re coaching people during that session. I don’t coach people. I take them through a four-step sales process but in a coach-like manner.
I want to understand what the problem is they’re having because people don’t buy products or services. They buy solutions to their problems. “What is the problem that you’re having? And what is that costing you? What’s the pain point there?”
I try to exacerbate that and explore that with them so that they have an understanding, and I have an understanding of what exactly is going on in your business and what the problem is. What’s that costing your business?
Number two, we discuss what you would like it to be like. “If I could wave a magic wand and make it all better, what would that optimal situation look like? And what would that do for you?” Then you have the pain point, and then you have the pleasure. “What would that look like if it was fixed?”
Number three, what’s preventing you from having that? Stephan, you told me this is the problem in your business, and this is what it’s costing you. This is what you’d like it to be like. It sort of seems like you know what the solution is. What’s preventing you from getting there? That’s what the real problem is. That’s the problem underneath that they need help with. Now I know as a coach, “Okay, this is where they need some coaching help.”
Then, I hone in on, “Okay, great, if I could show you a way to solve that problem that’s causing all these problems in your business, get you to that end solution so it looks perfect to you, what is that worth to you?” I want to know the value in their eyes. As long as the value of what that solution looks like is more than what I will charge them, they will hire me. If the value is not there, that won’t be a good client for me, or I didn’t do my job upfront. I didn’t exacerbate and explore that problem enough.
I’ll circle back and talk through that again to ensure that we understand the value of that problem in solving it. I’m not coaching them per se. I’m coaching them through a process that helps them understand where they’re at in the business, where they want to be, and how I can help them.
Then, if it’s a good fit, I invite them to work with me. “Stephan, I’d love to work with you. I know I can help you with this. What are your thoughts?” Then they say, “Well, that’d be great, Tom. How do we work together?” Then I explained to him how I work and what it costs and enrolled them there.
This is a system that you teach your clients, too, right? Because I remember you teaching me this sort of stuff as well and had me honing in my sales call kind of process or system. I made some improvements in my close rate by implementing your recommendations.
Building a referral system works. You just have to maintain consistency to attract the business you need.
Yeah, it’s a process. I call it the four-step sales process. It’ll work in any business. It makes sales simple for people. Most people come to business not from a sales background, so they’re not quite sure how to sell and market themselves. I try to keep it simple for people. But if you do that and get it dialed in, now you’re an expert at onboarding people, and you’ll have a lot of success with that 60%-90% close ratio.
Then, if you match that up with your marketing systems, if your marketing system is going, getting the right types of people in it, and you keep marketing to them, eventually they’re going to ask you, “Hey, I’d love to do an enrollment conversation with you.” Then you’re going to enroll those people.
But again, it’s having that end-to-end solution. See, what happens is sales is about syntax. What I mean by that is it’s a process. It’s like your garage door code. There are four numbers; if you punch them right, the garage door opens. If you don’t know all the numbers or you don’t punch them in the right order, it doesn’t work.
It’s the same thing with your marketing systems. If you skip steps, or if you don’t have the right process in place, then the result is you don’t get a client. But if you have the right process, know the code, and do it in the right order, you’ll get a client almost every time.
Also, in your onboarding process, once they say yes, it’s just so seamless. It’s so structured but low-pressure. You’re asking, “Alright when would be a great time for your first session, or how would you like to pay for that?” I forget exactly what your questions are that made it just seemingly an easy transition to let’s get this thing signed. Let’s get your credit card.
It goes back to the mindset thing. I don’t take a sales mindset to this. What I take is a consulting mindset. I’m not here to sell you coaching. I’m not here to sell you anything. What I’m here to do is help you solve your problem.
If it’s a good fit, I believe I can help you, and you agree, then we have a good marriage here. And then it’s just a matter of, “Okay, how would you like to move forward?” It makes it simple. It’s unobtrusive. It’s very easy.You need four to six powerful marketing tools to successfully grow your business, such as public speaking events, referrals, networking, advertising, or search engine optimization. Click To Tweet
The other thing that I want to emphasize here, which fits back with the referral conversation we were having before, is that most of the clients I get come from people who have referred me to business. One of the things that I do at the end of that process is, let’s say you were referred to me, you went through that process, you signed up for coaching today.
A couple of things that I do. Before we ever had that session, whoever referred you to me, I called them, and I thanked them for the referral. “Hey, Jim. Thanks for sending stuff my way. I appreciate that. Just so you know, he’s going to go through the same process you went through,” and they go, “Wow, that was a great process, Tom.” I got a lot out of that. Great. He’s going to go through that same process. I’m not assuming he will be a client, but he will get something out of that process.
If he walks away and we don’t do any business together, he will walk away with some things he can implement, which will help his business. There’s going to be value there.
What I do is I want to make sure that I keep the person who referred you over in the loop, so I’ll thank them for the referral. I’ll let them know. “Hey, just so you know, I’m meeting with Stephan on Friday. I’ll let you know how it goes.” After I meet with you, I’ll call him. “Hey, thanks for the referral. Stephan and I had a great conversation. He decided to hire me. We’re going to do some work together.” I’m making sure that I’m keeping that person in the loop and I’m protecting their reputation.
The other thing that I do is critically important. When you decide to sign up, or even if you don’t decide to sign up, I say to you, “Hey, Stephan, do me a favor. It was great meeting you today. I’m looking forward to being your coach, but if you could do me a favor and call Jim and thank him for referring you to me, I would appreciate that.”
Now that person’s calling the person that referred and said, “Hey, met with Tom at a great experience. We’re going to do some coaching work together. Thank you so much for the introduction.” Do you think Jim is now going to send me referrals? Absolutely. Not only did I protect his reputation, I made him look like a rock star.
Now his friend or business associate, client, or whatever, is like, I’m having a great experience here. Thank you so much for the introduction. That’s what’s going to solidify that trust there. That person’s going to keep sending you referrals.
It’s not just about the results for this referred client. It’s the perception of results from the referral partner, too.
Absolutely. I’m glad you used the word perception because I’m sure we’ve all had this experience where we’ve referred somebody to someone that maybe isn’t the greatest business. But our perception is that “I like this person. I want to help them. I want to help my friend.” It’s that perception there; sometimes, perception doesn’t mean fantastic best-in-class results. Sometimes, that perception is, “Hey, I like working with this guy. He gets me good results. We have a great rapport. I’d love to refer him to some business.”
That’s super important in that perception of protecting their reputation and guarding that is also super important.
Another thing you do that I learned is something I emulated from you, called the intake packet. I think it’s about 16–20 pages long and includes how we would work together, what the next steps are, who I am, a bit of a bio, and a bunch of testimonials from past clients.
The meat of it is the last part, which is the client details, goals, challenges, etc., of this new client. Anything you want to talk about? I know we’re getting up to time, but it’s just something I wanted to make sure that we worked into this episode: the intake packet.A lack of consistency in your business and deliverables will lead to a lack of referrals from your clients. Click To Tweet
I’m glad you brought that up, Stephan, because it’s a critical part of the intake process, right? In that intake process, I’m interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing me. I give them that intake package or welcome packet, whatever you want to call it, for a couple of reasons.
Number one, I’m testing them. “Are they going to read through the material? Are they going to do the exercises?” And if they do, they’re probably going to be a good client. If they don’t, I start to question whether or not this is a good fit. It’s a little bit of a test there.
The second thing is when they fill that out, they’re going to give me all the information I need to know about what we need to talk about in that session because they’re going to tell me what their problems are and what kind of issues it’s causing them and what they would like that end state to look like. All those things we talked about earlier, they’re going to write those things down and say, “Hey, Tom, here’s my top ten challenges right now with my business or with my website or whatever that is.”
When you go into that intake session, you already know what you’ll talk about and are highly prepared. It tests them to ensure, “Hey, are they willing to do 30–45 minutes of homework?” Also, as you said, you include some case studies and information about you and your background, so you’re establishing credibility with them before they even step into that call with you.
Now they’re already a big fan. The only thing that will happen in that call is if you mess it up, then you’ll lose them. But if you do everything like you should and follow the system, there’s a high chance that they will become your client. It’s going to help you close that business.
The other piece of this is that you have a process. Again, consistency, right? If you want that person who just signed up with you to become a referrer in the future, now they go, “Wow, Stephan’s process is awesome.” I’m more than happy to send a referral because I know they will go through the same experience I had, which was great. You want to ensure you’re doing that there, too, because it’s part of that process.
If anyone is interested in learning more about this, I’m happy to talk to people. Again, I always offer that complimentary session. If someone wants guidance on how to do that in their business, I’d be more than happy to do that with them. But these little things will separate you from a business that thrives for a decade and a business that doesn’t make it. It’s these little tiny distinctions that make the difference.
The devil’s in the details, but I like to say it’s God in the details.
This has been a great episode. I’m grateful for you coming on and sharing a lot of wisdom and experience. If our listeners hopefully will want to now work with you and get a complimentary coaching session to then be likely to convert into an ongoing client for you, how do they get in touch?
Well, a couple of things. The best way to do this is to go to my website, businesscoachchicago.com. If you want, there’s a free giveaway on the front page: The 5 Keys to a Great Referral System. You just put your email there, download that, and I go through a whole process of how you can build your own referral system.
There’s also a link if they want a complimentary coaching session with me. They can click that. Simply put your name and phone number in that, and they’ll email you. We will call them and set up a time to do that.
A couple of things I wanted to end here. Number one, thank you for having me today. I enjoyed our time together. Hopefully, this was valuable information for your audience. I will leave everyone with one thing: Dale Carnegie did a study on referrals a couple of years ago. They found that 91% of customers are willing to give a referral, but only 11% of salespeople ask for it.
If you take away nothing from our session today, just remember that. All you have to do is ask; you’ll be better than 90% of salespeople asking. If you do that consistently, you’ll get a lot of business.
A good corollary to that—I don’t remember where I heard this before—if you don’t ask, you don’t get it.
Yeah, absolutely. Real simple. In a business, the simple things, usually the free or low-cost things, are the things that work the best. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or time and effort to have a successful business if you know these distinctions.
Awesome. Thank you, Tom. Again, it’s businesscoachchicago.com. Lots of great nuggets. Thank you, Tom. Thank you, listener. We’ll catch up with you in the next episode. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.
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Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Create a step-by-step system for onboarding my new clients to ensure a seamless experience. This builds trust and confidence in my consistent delivery for clients.
Ask for permission to use my referrals. Understand that referrals help grow my business. This also plants the seed for future referrals.
Protect client reputations so they’ll confidently refer me to others. Regularly check in with my clients to confirm that they’re satisfied with my work.
Create power partnerships with non-competing businesses. Partner with complementary businesses in co-marketing to network.
Use presentations to capture numerous leads. When I present to large groups, I simultaneously share my message with many prospects.
Collect contact information through text-to-screen tools. This allows me to quickly collect contact information from a large group. Follow up with contacts after my presentation.
Add my new contacts to my CRM. I can set up automation to engage my contacts through email newsletters, social media, etc.
Track and optimize my marketing channels. Identify and track all of my lead sources over time–events, partnerships, email, and social media. Analyze the data to double down on the best methods to convert my leads. Systematize processes around top lead-gen weapons.
Follow a four-step sales process focused on my client’s needs. Identify their struggles, create a vision of their success, uncover their obstacles, and position my solution to unlock their goals.
Thank my referral partners. Express sincere gratitude for partnerships that fuel my business.
About Tom Kelly
Since 2002, Tom Kelly has coached thousands of salespeople, entrepreneurs, business owners and executives to success. As a Coach, Tom focuses on “coaching to the edge of what is possible” by providing his clients with the tools, support, and structure necessary to set better goals, increase their focus, and maximize their results.