Alan Weiss has written over 45 books. Absorb that for a minute. That is a heck of alot of books.
His latest is Million Dollar Referrals (McGraw- Hill). A timely title about one of the most unique marketing art forms, referrals. Why timely? With constant changes in media and the rise of new channels such as social media, referrals can make or break many kinds of businesses. It is certainly an under-managed areas of marketing strategy in most organizations that has potential to improve business results. Like most marketing it requires your value proposition to be crystal clear as you are asking someone else to explain it to someone else. I can say from experience that many people skip this step.
Million Dollar Referrals is a clearly written, thought provoking read. The kind folks at McGraw-Hill were kind enough to set up an interview with Alan Weiss, the conversation is below….
The opening chapter discusses “Business Relationships are a Process, Not an Event”. You could replace the word relationships with many other concepts. Making that switch requires changing personal habits and or corporate culture. What is the best way to create this behavior change?
Alan Weiss: It merely requires educating your buyer and client. Culture change is a rubric, signifying less than nothing these days. Demonstrate to the client the nature of the relationship and partnership in terms of ongoing interaction and support.
What are the typical issues that can lead to a consulting provider being replaced? Can referrals be used effectively to ignite that need for a change in provider?
Alan Weiss: Trust that is violated. It’s very difficult to replace a highly respected consultant in a client. You can use referrals to become an additional resource as opposed to a replacement.
If you were starting a new consulting company from scratch today what areas would you take extra care to distinguish unique value in today’s highly competitive and global landscape?
Alan Weiss: Responsiveness; intellectual property; testimonials; global applicability; thought leadership; contrarianism.
You discuss that for referrals to be successful, clear communication of both targets and mutual benefit need to be present. What is the hardest part about consistently achieving this?
Alan Weiss: Being afraid to ask, failing to follow up, taking “no” too readily, not adequately demonstrating the win/win/win nature.
The are many new areas of strategic consulting involving technology convergence, search marketing, mobile, etc. What is the best way to convey certain value for new services where the price is not well established?
Alan Weiss: Price has nothing to do with it. The key is to show the value in terms of the buyer personal needs as well as the organizational need. Every client knows what he wants; few know what the need. Consultants should identify the needs.
Is there any way to create referrals when you are working with a client under a non-disclosure agreement?
Alan Weiss: Sure. You can be referred outside the industry, or without regard to the nature of the work, and without revealing that the source was a client.
Is there any major issues you think people over look with referrals?
Alan Weiss: They don’t prepare their clients or the environment, and fail to consistently ask because they are embarrassed.
I understand you occasionally put on some unique seminars? Is anything upcoming?
Alan Weiss: Just finished Thought Leadership at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Million Collar Consulting® College next week. Australia speaking tour after that. The Art of the Referral Workshop in Newport on Nov. 30. http://www.summitconsulting.com/