All Referrals Are Not Created Equal; Make Yours Count

By Heather Baldwin

What better way to meet a prospect than with a personal introduction from a client, right? You would think so. But even if your client promises to call an acquaintance and tell him or her what a great job you’ve done, it doesn’t necessarily mean the new prospect will be eager to hear from you. After all, there’s a real difference between a referral that uses vague generalities – Tom’s a great guy or I think this guy can help you – and effective recommendations that tell a real story.

So how do you get your client to tell a story that will make the new prospect eager to talk to you? Use SODAR, says Randy Schwantz in his new book, How to Get the Competition Fired (John Wiley & Sons, 2005). “SODAR is an acronym for a five-step process you can use to jog your clients’ memory about what a great job you have done, coach them to introduce you in the best possible way and make sure they call and report back to you on the results,” says Schwantz. Here are the five steps and what you should say in each of them.

1. Situation. Remember the situation when we met, Paul? The issues that made you consider working with us?

2. Opportunity. Why did you see us as an opportunity? How did you think we could help you? Was it the problem you had and how we approached solving it?

3. Decision. When you made the decision to hire us, how did you assess us? Is there one thing that really stands out in your mind?

4. Action. How has it gone since then? Did we take the right action? Do you remember the specific steps we took to improve things?

5. Results. What have been the results? Did they affect the bottom line? Productivity? Sales? Efficiency? Can you quantify the difference working with us has made for your business?

By going through these steps, you prod your clients into thinking of specifics and set them up to have a meaningful conversation with their acquaintances. A sixth step to this process would be following through. You might say something such as: Paul, when would be a good time to call you back to hear how the conversation went? If he gives you a date, he’s committing to make the referral before then and giving you an opportunity to follow up. Take it.