Today we sat down with Ken Taylor; author of “Breaking the Sales Barrier” and founder of Ken Taylor & Associates Inc. To call Ken a power networker may be an understatement. His company specializes in sales and leadership training, across multiple industries, he works with fortune 100 companies such as General Motors, Chrysler, and CitiMortgage. He is currently contracted with GM, in charge of training business to business sales, for 600 commercial dealerships.
Ken has been running a successful business for over 21 years.
What do you think of Referral Key as tool for managing referrals?
I actually really liked it, I’m just getting into it now. I like the concept far better than I do Plaxo or Linked In. For most people that join Linked In and Plaxo, it becomes a conglomeration of names. People are trying to link to me and I say to myself, “Who is that and what’s the relationship?” There’s ways to use these services better but 95% have no concept of how to do that and we try to teach them. To be able to track referrals and know “who” gives “what”, is an incredible tool. We found out about you guys through your partner program with Constant Contact and I’m always open to new ideas. I went on Referral Key, explored it and said, “Wow, this is a much better concept than what I’ve seen.”
You said you’re a connector and have a 10,000 person network. How do you manage all of those connections?
I am connector, and connectors get as much thrill and joy out of giving referrals as getting them. A lot people say, “Gosh, it’s a down economy, how are you doing?”. And I say, “We’re doing great, people trust us and we’ve built that trust over a long period of time.”
What makes a great networker?
The key to networking is asking the questions, “What do you give, before you get?” and “How can you help other people?” I go to networking events and see people running from group to group handing out business cards and not really building relationships. In sales we have a three step process: “Know, Like and Trust”. Someone has to know you. Once they get to know you they have to have an affinity for you. Finally, if you send them a referral, the trust begins to build and you see the floodgates begin to open.
It’s about always having your network hat on. If you’re really an effective networker, everything evolves into a networking opportunity. You might be talking to a client and you happen to know a different client that has particular needs and then bring the second client’s needs up through questions. It’s all about being a matchmaker.
Ask what else is going on and ask more about the company. For example, we’ll go into an automotive dealership, make sales calls with them and encourage them to ask more than just about automotive; “What’s going in your company that’s of concern to you?” Just by asking that question, we’ve now created a referral networking opportunity.
What do you think makes an unsuccessful networker?
I went to a networking event with my wife and I saw some very unsuccessful networking. One young salesperson asked someone what they did and his response to that was, “well I don’t need to talk to you, you’re not in my area of expertise.”
I’ll be giving a seminar and I’ll ask a question such as, “how many of you are in networking groups like BNI?” Of about 50 salespeople, only 3-4 hands go up. Then I’ll ask, “what has you experience been?” By their answers, I know how good they are. One person might say, “I haven’t gotten a lot out of it” and then I know they haven’t put a lot into it.
Do you think that tracking referrals is a good idea and leads to healthier business relationships?
It’s essential! For example, we work with mortgage loan officers, and we often hear them say, “I established a relationship with a realtor, I gave them 3 referrals but I never got anything back.” Then I ask the loan officer, “Did you create that expectation up front?”. I tell them the problem might be that the realtor is not even thinking about a referral relationship and doesn’t have that same referral mentality.
I encourage the loan officer to follow up with the realtor and say something to the affect of, “I sent you three referrals and I assumed we had a business relationship, did I do something wrong?” The realtor went on to apologize and immediately sent a referral to the loan officer. You have to instruct them and teach them.
We track who sent referrals. We’re going to give them a gift, we’re going to call them and we’re going to make sure that they are rewarded for what they did for us. I got three referrals today and made sure to give three right back. You have to know what people send to you and know what you send out. You have to know who those referrals are, where they came from and what they resulted in. Always keep your referral source informed of what happened, thank them and let them know that you are on the lookout. It’s very important to repay those referrals in kind. It’s my obligation to let you know that I appreciate the referrals that you gave and I want to tell you that I can do the same, it may not happen right away, but please know you’re on my radar screen.
Do you do anything to ensure reciprocal referral relationships?
Life is what it is. There are cases where someone doesn’t have the opportunity to send you referrals; maybe there’s not a business fit. But, it doesn’t mean I abandoned that relationship. I keep it on the drawing board and continuing learning more about that person. Even though they may not be a direct referral source, they may become what we term as an “indirect referral source”. They can get me into another network or I find out they’re in different associations and that association ends up being a fit.
Don’t ever dismiss anyone as a client. I’m on airplanes quite a bit. I have the same networking ice-breaker with the person sitting next to me. If they’re not busy reading a book, I’ll ask them, “Hey are you going home or are you leaving?” It’s the beginning of a long conversation that could lead to referral networking opportunity.