Susie awoke earlier than usual the next morning. The sun had not quite risen over the mountains to the east of Rancho Benicia.
But she couldn’t go back to sleep. In fact, she couldn’t wait to get up. Her mind was racing and, for the first time in weeks, in a positive, not a negative, way. And she felt so very good. All the ideas and hopes and shared stories of the last two days had taken hold of her in a powerful, uplifting way that surprised her. Not only was she experiencing a change in her situation, but after last night’s goal setting, she was also developing a plan of action that was real—not contrived like some of the other plans she’d learned about.
In the past, when she had heard concepts and methods she didn’t like while attending a training session, she would gloss over those parts—like cold calling or handling objections or asking closing questions. She wasn’t doing that this time. And that’s because she saw none of those chores (especially cold calling—oh, how she hated cold calling) in this concept—none at all.
So she showered and put on one of her best outfits because she wanted to look as good as she felt this morning. Within minutes, she was strolling down Main Street, overlooking the ocean. The morning fog had not burned off yet. There was a newness to this time of the day that she liked. And this morning the day felt newer still, newer than ever before. And she knew why. She checked her satchel again to make sure she had her notebook because she was actually looking forward to reviewing the goals she had written last night with Highground’s help.
By the time she got to the coffee shop, Highground was already there, looking over the display case of tempting pastries.
“Good morning, Susie!” he chimed, as buoyant as she felt herself. “Ready to start?”
“I’ve never been more ready in my life.”
“Great. Let’s get one of these pastries, order our coffee, grab a table, and review your thoughts from yesterday. Then I’ll tell you what you’ll experience today.”
Within a few minutes, the two were seated at a front table, coffee cups and pastries and notebooks strewn between them. And as Highground looked over Susie’s completed goals, his smile grew bigger and bigger and bigger.
“What?” Susie had to know.
“I just love seeing someone like you getting it.”
Susie picked up her cup and leaned back confidently in her chair. “You mean, understanding the lifetime value of a relationship—the value of what that person might purchase in a lifetime as well as the value of his or her lifetime referrals, understanding that you have to lead with a helping hand? The value of communications using a properly organized database that’s been ABCed? The significance and focus the creation of my Perfect Client Avatar brings and the power of your two-week and eight-week visualized goals?”
Highground laid back his head and laughed loud and heartily. “You’re doing fabulous, Susie. You’re already applying the philosophy and process to your authentic self. I’m truly looking forward to seeing the bright future peeking out from the goals you’ve set and visualized over the next eight weeks.”
“I appreciate that, Mr. Highground, ah, I mean David,” Susie said, as she briefly smiled, “but I have to admit something. I have a couple of issues getting started. I may be a little uncomfortable telling people that I work this way, I mean exclusively by referrals, when I don’t—yet. That’s the next step, isn’t it? I have to start from scratch?”
Highground nodded. “Great observation. Everyone I help become systematic with this process has the same hurdle. What you will learn this morning from Philip is how to educate any staff or people that will work with you, then how to educate your clients and associates in your database—your 250 by 250 list that’s been ABCed. But first, you have to teach yourself. You have to live the philosophy of the golden rule on a daily basis and incorporate the process of referring others to people you trust. As you begin to do so, you will gain the confidence to share with others that your business is primarily supported by referrals. As they say, people should walk their talk and be a ‘product of their own product.’ That’s what being authentic is all about.”
“I get it. The last thing I want to do is talk about what my clients should do and then not follow my own advice,” Susie said. “Truth be told, I’ve been in that position before, and speaking from that experience, it doesn’t work.”
She looked down for a moment, took a deep breath, and looked up at Highground. “You’ve addressed my first issue. Now here’s the second issue. If I’m being transparent, I have a real problem personally connecting with certain types of people in business. I mean, I have no problem connecting with other young women my age, but with older professional men and women, I just seem to strike out when it comes to making a personal connection and I don’t know why. It’s awkward for me.”
Like a kind uncle, Highground smiled and said, “I understand, Susie.” Shifting as he leaned forward in his seat, he continued. “Like we discussed earlier, it’s a process of getting comfortable with your God-given gifts and abilities … and your authentic voice.
“I was going to share this with you later, but since you brought it up and we have a few minutes before Philip arrives, I’ll explain it now.
“Let me share a little story about an old and trusted friend of mine and how he found his authentic voice. His name is KT and he’s a highly successful trial attorney, and in many of his colleagues’ eyes, one of the best at what he does. In his words, his success in the courtroom depends on his ability to connect with jury members at a personal level so they trust him, like him, and believe him. Think about it: that’s a tough assignment in an environment like that!”
Susie’s notebook was on the table. Highground flipped the pages to the back and inserted a page titled “The 3 Levels of Communication.”
“KT said in his opinion, we basically communicate from three levels. The first level is the superficial level. It consists of the polite topical conversations you have with the same cashier you see every week at the grocery store. KT is a very funny fellow; his first-level example is when he’s at a mixer, he enjoys making others laugh. He enjoys it, but as he likes to share, it’s totally superficial.
“The second level relates to our professional lives. KT’s second-level example is his attorney mode. Like others with years of experience in a profession, KT is very comfortable interacting with others from his second level. When we communicate from the second level, business connections happen, not personal connections. We interact with many people throughout our day from the second level and it’s appropriate to do so. That makes sense, right?”
Susie replied, “It does to me.”
Highground continued, “But the third level is where the good stuff happens: when we communicate from this level, we personally connect. The third level is our transparent level, our authentic level. It’s from this level that we speak with our authentic voice. As KT says, it’s all about stating and pointing to the pink elephant in your own room. You may as well because most see it anyway. When we communicate from this level, we connect with others because we are being honest, candid, and real. This is the level from which we admit to our close friends that we blew it and need to ask for their forgiveness. When others hear us communicating from this level they relate because they have their own pink elephants. Communicating from our third level gives us the ability to connect with others in our professional lives and our personal lives. Our transparency and authenticity give us power, when oftentimes we think it will make us appear weak.
“KT’s point is he’s able to personally connect with jury members of all ages, genders, income levels, and ethnicities without their ever saying a word. He’s honest and talks about his concerns, his hopes, and his fears. He connects because they have the same concerns, hopes, and fears.”
Susie’s face lit up as she responded, “That’s amazing. It makes so much sense to me. I definitely need to work on when it’s appropriate to communicate from the third level because sometimes I go there too quickly. But it’s so simple, I love it.”
“I agree. So simple trial attorneys from all over the country resonate with his simple little process and fill up conferences anytime he’s booked to speak about it.
“To your point, Susie, KT shares that you can build relationships at all levels; however, the key to personally connecting with others is to first be aware of all three levels, and when appropriate, shift and communicate from your third level, with your authentic voice. It’s a process that works for all of us in our business and personal relationships. So take heart, Susie. Your hurdle is not unique to you. Someday when you meet KT, ask him about his early years trying to personally connect in business. He will have you, and anyone else in the room, doubled over laughing as he recounts his ‘back in the day’ experience of trying to find his authentic voice.
“Does that help, Susie?”
Susie replied, “Absolutely, you have no idea how much that helps.”
Highground smiled and raised his hand, and Susie leaned over and gave him a solid high five as he saw Philip come in the door. “Remember, Susie, Philip is a business-relational, so his style will be quite different from Sheila Marie’s or Paul’s.”
Susie replied in a hushed voice, “Well, no worries, David. We are both business-relational, so we should relate with each other.” Highground looked at Susie, nodded, and smiled.
Philip walked up at the appointed time, impeccably dressed as usual. “Good morning, I’m Philip Stackhouse. It looks like some good stuff is going on,” he said to Susie with a warm, confident smile as he approached the table.
“Philip,” Highground said, “this is the friend I was talking about, Susie McCumber.”
“Hello, Philip,” Susie answered. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Highground waved him to pull up another chair. “Philip, I was just mentioning to Susie what you will be sharing with her this morning in regard to educating everyone on her new philosophy and process.”
“Before you do, why don’t you share with Susie your background and where you were before we met. I thought I would leave you two to talk for a couple of hours before your clients arrive. You are meeting them here, Philip?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, then, I’ll be back about eleven, okay?”
“No problem,” Philip said, and Susie nodded, waving to Highground as he did his ‘new lesson’ disappearing act once more.
“So, Susie,” Philip began, leaning toward her. “What do you think of all that you’ve heard and seen in the last day or so?” Philip had focused suddenly and directly on Susie, almost as if he were interrogating her.
A bit taken aback by this scrutiny, Susie reverted a little into her old nervousness. The fact that Philip was obviously a highly successful individual, based on the way he dressed and acted, didn’t help. However, she thought about all she had learned the day before and the fact that she was referred by Highground with nothing to prove to this man. She looked directly at Philip and said, “I still have some questions, but what I like most is I don’t have to try to impress you. I just need to be myself. That’s what I saw in Sheila Marie and Paul yesterday. Also, the process seemed at first to be a bit simplistic, but now I feel that’s only my first impression. Actually, it now sounds more professional and impactful—if I follow it properly—than any plan I’ve ever heard or tried, and I don’t think that’s just wishful thinking.”
Susie had forgotten her uneasiness and was on quite a roll, one that Philip noticed. He smiled, impressed. “I think you’re going to institute this process as well as anyone I know, and I look forward to watching that happen. You are going to truly enjoy the results. So now that you understand and know the value of a relationship, have learned how to create a database and ABC it, and have identified your Perfect Client Avatar, I’m supposed to talk to you about what you do next.”
“And what’s that?”
“Live it,” Philip said, with a wry look. “What do you think of that?”
“Makes sense. How did you achieve that?” Susie asked.
“One step at a time,” Philip said. “Understanding how to live out this process and educate others doesn’t happen overnight. It begins with changing your game—first within yourself (how you think and act), then with others. And when that happens, all the people you now know or meet in the future, will immediately perceive your changed game immediately.”
He waved to get Bennie’s attention.
“The usual?” Bennie called over.
Philip shot him his trademark thumbs-up and went back to his conversation. “You know, I hadn’t thought of it, but that’s what Highground is. He’s a game changer. The first thing he does is change the way we play the game ourselves, which in turn helps us change the perceptions, and the games, of those around us.”
“He has definitely done that for me in the last couple of days.”
“I wasn’t always generating business through my database and by referral,” Philip confided. “Before I met Highground I trained the financial planners in my office how to cold call. I advertised in newspapers, on television, wherever I could spend money in the hope of making the telephone ring. I was pretty good at it. As I moved up the ladder, I always had a knack for selling. I did the wall-to-wall days on the phones as a young sales guy. I didn’t get much fulfillment out of it, but I thought that was how everyone did business.”
“You were good at cold calls?”
“I was,” Philip admitted. “I just didn’t like it. As the number of clients I served and money under management grew, I wanted to take the next step. I decided to start my own business. I invested a lot of my savings to build my own team and tried to train my new young advisors in the art of selling those old ways, you know—old school, and my results were amazingly … negligible. What I found was there are very few of us out there who can handle the rejection of cold calling. Fewer still who want to learn the technique of handling the objection, isolating the issues, offering solutions, ‘closing hard three times,’ et cetera, to the point of making it work. Rare is the person who is truly good at it or can sustain it over time. Because I was paying the overhead and supporting a team, my profitability decreased while the hours I worked and stress increased. I was getting referrals, just not the kind of referrals that I was interested in. The more my overall results lagged, the more I threw money at places to find more leads. By the time I met Highground, I was at my wit’s end. I still looked good to everyone else, but … at my wit’s end. He would say I was on the mantel. I was certainly at a crossroads in my career, very frustrated and disheartened. I was ready to let my team go and go back to the drawing board and work the business by myself. I didn’t want to do that, but I knew I could at least make enough to pay the bills.”
“I know the feeling,” Susie said.
“I remember telling Highground that I actually didn’t need more referrals. Because I didn’t have a process to focus on the kind of clients I wanted, the typical referrals I received were not the type I wanted. I let him know I didn’t have the time or the interest to speak to someone’s newly married son or daughter about his or her $10,000 nest egg. I just needed more money under management!
“Now let me tell you, Susie, Highground knew how to stop a misdirected freight train like me with one simple little question. When I took a breath, he smiled that smile of his and said, ‘Let me ask you a yes-or-no question, Philip. If I could show you a process whereby you could replace the bottom 10 percent of your clients with duplicates of your top 10 percent, is that something you would be interested in learning more about?’
“It was like ‘bam.’ I just looked him in the eye and quietly asked, ‘You can do that?’ He said, ‘Absolutely, without a doubt.’ That’s how I started the little journey like you are now on. It redirected my business and life. I’m now respected for how I conduct business and who I am doing business with, and I have more time for my wife, my boys—more time to enjoy life. Because I have this process in place, I work primarily with the top 10 percent of the wealthiest families in the community. My whole staff is trained in this philosophy and process, and they like themselves and the company a lot more for it. When we use the little phrase ‘Just let me know,’ we understand it is a two-way street. That’s why we’re so confident when we use it, because we live it out.”
Susie look at him, puzzled. “Just let me know?”
“Oh, yes. That’s the linchpin in Principle 3—Just Let Me Know. Educating your clients about how you work and your value to them through regular, tangible actions performed. It’s what we who have taken Highground’s system to heart say to every client we work with. It’s not important to use the exact same words, just the philosophy, so you can verbalize it in your own words. We want our clients to let us know if we can help them in any way in business or beyond. You’ll hear specifically how to make it work with Principle 4. But for now, just know that this phrase, and the philosophy behind it, is amazing in its power to give the right impression to your clients. The last thing you want to seem is self-serving. Your actions behind these words embody your ‘lead with a helping hand’ mind-set. Consistently communicating and educating your clients about how you work is the most important dynamic in a referral system.”
Susie was beaming at this new idea. “I like it. It sounds genuine. It sounds very authentic.”
“That’s because it is,” he explained. “That’s the beauty of this program. It’s real. We help people all the time; we go out of our way to serve our clients in ways that the usual business philosophy would never include. The old-school businessman would not approve—nor would I have six years ago. But now it’s all part of our service to our clients. When we live out this principle, the second part becomes second nature.”
“What second part? You mean the referral?”
“That’s right. Because we are actually living out the principles we promote, we now have a ‘hall pass’ to ask everyone we know for a referral, and I do mean the exact type of referrals we are interested in.”
To show Susie, Philip suddenly took on a warm yet businesslike gaze, sat up professionally straight, looked into her eyes, and said, “So, Ms. Very Important Client, just let me know if we can help you in any way, business or beyond. And if you have any friends or associates that can use our services, please call me with their names. I’ll treat them just as I have treated you. Just let us know.” He sat back in his chair and smiled. “See?”
Susie grinned. “Yes, I see. That second part is the pivotal part.”
Philip nodded. “The referral education process starts on the very first meeting. You don’t ask for a referral on the first meeting, but you do educate your clients that after you have earned the right for them to refer or recommend you, you definitely will ask them to refer you. You will learn how to explain that it actually benefits your clients that your business is primarily generated by referrals because it allows you and your team more time to serve them. It’s not rocket science, Susie. You won’t spend a lot of time or resources on generating business any other way. Your approach is simply focusing on the needs of others before your own, and people respond to that approach. They really do. And so will you.”
Mesmerized by Philip’s enthusiasm and confidence in his approach, Susie suddenly remembered a question that she felt a bit uneasy about earlier. “Do you ever pay referral fees if someone sends you a client?”
Philip smiled at that. “Good question. We pay a finder’s fee to a referring financial advisor, just as an attorney does to a referring attorney. If it’s an accepted practice in your space, you should do so. One thing I learned from Highground is that if you offer a referral fee promotion, just make sure you compensate the referrer and the referee equally, so one doesn’t feel embarrassed if the other finds out about it.
“However, as a rule of thumb we normally do not pay a referral fee. You would never expect to be paid to refer a friend to a good restaurant or recommend a great movie. You do it because you have received great service or enjoyed the movie, and you think your friend could benefit from knowing about it. You also have the enjoyment of being the first in your group to discover and share that restaurant or movie. And you might be appreciated if you go to the restaurant and the owner recognizes you because you are an advocate, and that might get you faster service,” he added, loud enough to be heard by Bennie, who was coming their way, “much like Bennie here at the coffee shop!”
“Hey, you talking about me?” Bennie said in a mock-Brooklyn tough voice, setting down a steaming mug of coffee on the table, inches from Philip’s lap.
“Hey, it’s about time,” Philip countered in an even tougher voice. “Here, take the money and leave us alone!”
Bennie laughed, grabbed the money, and then shot him a thumbs-up, to Philip’s laughing delight.
“That guy is beautiful. He’s the reason I met Highground. And he’s a walking billboard for the success of Highground’s way of approaching business, isn’t he?”
“Bennie’s been personally coached by Highground in this process?” Susie’s eyes widened and she smiled, confirming what she already suspected.
“Sure,” Philip said, stirring his coffee and then taking a sip. “Look around at the attention to the business of others and personal relationships on the walls. Look at the group of walking, talking power advocates he has developed. All of his staff, courteousness and attentive to everyone’s needs.”
“And think about the café’s ‘items of value’ you have received in the mail—coupons, discounts for other services, that sort of thing.”
Susie couldn’t believe she hadn’t seen it before. “You’re exactly right, Philip. I just realized everything—the language he uses is very similar to the language all of you are teaching me to use. He’s always asking me if he can help me in any way—and to pass his name along to any friends or family that would enjoy a good coffee café. He even referred Mr. Highground to me! I just thought … well, I don’t know what I thought. It was so natural and helpful. Like he cared. And this café is so wonderfully run, its friendly staff and its ambience are so good, why wouldn’t I tell my friends about it?”
“That’s how it works, Susie. We just pass along the ‘good’ to those that we like and want to do business with. All of us—Bennie, Paul, Sheila Marie, and many more. This philosophy and process works with any business in any industry. We have a whole network of businesses that we are happy to refer to our clients and friends because we know that they are going to take care of them.
“And here’s the thing, Susie: we are all human, so sometimes we inadvertently pass along the ‘bad.’ If that happens, we quickly own up to it, we don’t make excuses, and we do our best to quickly right the situation.
“See how it works?”
“I’m beginning to see the whole, interesting picture.”
“Which gets us back to what I’m supposed to talk to you about today—education. Now that you are starting to change your game, you need to take the next step and institute some of the branding of the system on your business communications, concepts like Just Let Me Know, along with a host of other pieces that describe your new philosophy: thank-you cards, letterheads, e-mail communications, items of value you give to express appreciation. The system needs to be part of what you say to everyone, and you have to demonstrate it daily in your business.”
Susie stared at Philip’s suit jacket, at something she had been noticing ever since he sat down. “What’s the ‘Highground’ pin on your lapel all about?” she asked. “I’ve been wanting to ask that since I met you. And I have a feeling that’s the point.”
“Susie, you are getting it so well!” Philip smiled, tapping his colorful lapel pin. “Do you like it? Several years ago a few of the people who Highground had coached over the years got together and finally named his wonderful philosophy and process. We simply call it ‘The Highground.’ Highground said it wasn’t necessary, but we wanted to do something to honor the man. He is so giving. He doesn’t do it for the money. Earlier in his career, he made more than he’ll ever spend, so he really doesn’t have a need to ask for anything, if you’ll notice. He hasn’t asked anything of you, has he?”
“No, he hasn’t,” Susie realized.
“Well, I had to give something back to him. When I first tried to give him money, he sent me a list of his favorite charities. He told me it’s all about giving back and he’ll leave the amount up to me. He went on to explain the personal fulfillment he experiences by helping others learn the universal truths he learned and put into practice years ago. So, I regularly give to his favorite charities, and I give back by sharing how I work ‘The Highground’ process with my clients, associates, and new friends like you. It’s the least I could do for his help and encouragement to live out this wonderful process. I’ve incorporated a logo around this name and I include it unobtrusively in certain parts of my literature explaining the value I put on a lifetime relationship.
“Everyone is different, so what you use to get this point across is up to you. Don’t get pulled down into the weeds and obsess about using the exact phrases others use. Keep your eyes on the horizon and understand that the big picture is based on a universal language that everyone understands deep within themselves. Do unto others …”
Susie quickly chimed in, “As you would have them do unto you.”
“Good stuff, Susie,” Philip replied through a smile. “You’d better open that notebook of yours. I’m about to give you some great information on Principle 3.”
She whipped out her notebook and pencil, flipped quickly to the right page, and waited. “I’m ready.”
“Okay. Principle 3 is—”
Susie interrupted to quote, “Just Let Me Know. Educate your clients about how you work and your value to them through regular, tangible actions performed.”
“Exactly,” Philip said, and then in a very no-nonsense tone he began to get down to business. “In a nutshell, as I mentioned earlier, it is simply the ability to communicate with everyone you know about how your business works, what you will do for them, and what you expect of them in return. With your ABCed database in order, ready and waiting, you’re already halfway there. The next step is to educate yourself. When you’ve changed your game within yourself and have truly begun to incorporate the language and process that Highground teaches you into your everyday life, you can move forward.” He paused for a second. “Earlier I mentioned the term ‘hall pass.’ Do you remember in school how you needed a hall pass to have permission to be officially in the halls during class?”
Principle 3: Just Let Me Know. Educate your clients about how you work and your value to them through regular, tangible actions performed.
Susie nodded and smiled.
“This is similar in that it is necessary to feel like you have the right to call someone and ask for that person’s business. Most of us never communicate with anyone consistently, let alone perform tangible actions demonstrating that the relationship between us and our clients is our first priority. Far too often, I am unable to persuade salespeople to call current and past clients as well as others in their sphere of influence. Why won’t they try it? The bottom-line reason—which few of them will admit—is that they are embarrassed for not keeping in touch and feel uneasy and uncomfortable when asked to call now. They’ve lost their hall pass.
What happens, though, when a consistent personalized communication process is in place? When you are living out the tangible proof that you put your relationships first? Your calls are welcomed, which is the way people thank you for the professional personal touch in your communications, the thoughtfulness in your actions. You have a hall pass to call people and, if it’s appropriate, talk business—and feel good about doing it.”
Susie wrote furiously, brow furrowed, fully focused, as Philip concentrated on the next point. “Next, if you will have staff working with you, then you have to get them on board. They need to have regular training and live the process as well. Once those who will be working with you are on board and are living it, you are now ready to start educating your database list and every new person you add to it.”
Susie looked up. “My 250 by 250 list? The list that I’ve ABCed?”
“That’s the one. That’s your database list. And you don’t have to wait until everything is in place to start. You just have to start one step at a time.
“The first thing you will send to your ABC database list is a letter telling everyone of your new business philosophy and proactive communication process. Some refer to this as a confession letter. Whether you feel the need to confess something or not, it simply states the value you place on those you know and/or have served in the past and the new attention you are giving to them. Here’s a sample letter I brought for you.”
Susie handled the letter as if it were a piece of gold. “Sheila Marie mentioned this,” she said. “It’s perfect.” For a few seconds, she studied it hard, her mind spinning with possibilities until a new thought occurred to her—a rather important thought: “What about new people I might meet?”
“The concept still works, and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “It will become so natural to share how you conduct your business, your relationship process, and its value to others that meeting new people will become a joy. And later, when you follow up with those you meet—first with a personal note immediately after your encounter, of course, and then through your communication program—these people will never feel like they have an L for ‘lead’ on their foreheads. And you will not have an L for ‘loser’ on yours because you are making them feel that way!”
Susie laughed. “Well, I’m glad to hear that.”
“Again, the referral process starts at your very first meeting. It’s at that meeting you will explain what you will do for those that become your clients and eventually, when you have earned the right to do so, will ask for their recommendation and/or their referrals. I can’t adequately explain to you how important this is. Even if I’ve said it twice, I should say it again.” Philip raised his index finger for effect. “The key point here is when you do ask for their referral or recommendation, it won’t come as a surprise, and you will have made the process of asking a much easier one for you. Does that make sense, Susie?”
“More than you can imagine, Philip. I’ve always had a hard time asking for referrals. Candidly, I always felt like I was imposing on my clients after they already paid me for my services. I felt kind of guilty for asking for a referral.”
Philip sat back and let out a hearty laugh. “Susie, believe me, you are not alone. In my industry what you just stated is epidemic. However, because you have a process that puts your clients’ needs first with tangible evidence you are doing so, it is much easier to implement. The referral process is introduced at the first meeting, and the education about referrals continue throughout the sales cycle, so when you finally do ask for a referral, it feels like a natural process for you and your client.
“Consistency is the key, and the people on your database list will—just like your family—know if you are real or not. As they see you walk your talk consistently, as they hear your authentic voice, they will become believers. Susie, your phone will start to ring regularly with referrals of prospects that resemble your Perfect Client Avatar. In many instances it will be those in your database proactively calling you with a referral because you have a focused process that serves them and educates them to do it.”
As excited as Susie was about this process, one point still bothered her. She decided to be honest about it: “How do you handle people who tell you no, Philip? I don’t like to admit it, but I hate getting rejected. It’s paralyzing, and I know it’s part of selling!”
Philip smiled. “I’ll tell you how to handle that. As soon as you put this proactive ‘outbound’ philosophy and process in place, you have a way to work around that fear of rejection. You’re able to accept that no gracefully and even, possibly, turn it into a yes later if you so choose, with your dignity intact. Tell you what—let’s role-play,” Philip suggested. “Let’s say one of my clients recommended my services to you and had not made you aware that I was going to call you. In my business we get recommended more than we get referrals, and both are wonderful. For us there is a difference between a recommendation and a referral.”
“The simple answer is you can recommend my services to all the people you know whether they have or don’t have a financial advisor. In this business we treat a referral as a request from someone who is currently in search of a financial advisor and asked to be referred. To some that just sounds like semantics, but to us it helps our clients recommend our services, a bit easier than referring us. Make sense?”
“Kind of,” Susie said, smiling. “Yes, I get it.”
“Assuming I was recommended to you by someone you know, I have permission to communicate via your acquaintance. Based on that recommendation, I could feel good about calling you and saying something like this.” He pantomimed picking up a phone.
Susie wondered if she should be taking notes. She grabbed her pencil.
Philip began talking into his imaginary phone. “Hello, Susie. This is Philip Stackhouse. Your friend Rich McCain recommended me to you. He e-mailed my contact information to you. He wasn’t sure if you could use my services but thought you might be interested to learn what I have done for him. Did I catch you at a bad time?” Philip placed a hand over his invisible phone and stage-whispered to Susie, “Normally, you wouldn’t admit to its being a bad time unless you truly were busy.”
Playing along, Susie replied, using her pencil as her imaginary phone receiver: “No, no, I’m not busy.”
“Great. Susie, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to run a few things by you concerning the positive financial structure I’ve set up for Rich and his family, in spite of the latest tax law changes. If you like what you hear, we’ll take it a bit further. If you don’t, we’ll leave it at that. Would that be okay?”
Philip put down his imaginary phone. “Now, because you know Rich, I’ve put the power of continuing the meeting in your hands with ‘if you like what you hear, we’ll take it a bit further.’ Wouldn’t you agree that the chances of your saying yes to talking with me are pretty high?”
Susie nodded her head. “Definitely.”
“And you’d be right. Well, then, let’s say, for whatever reason, you say no to my request. Now what?” He paused. “This is the big difference—I have a process where most do not. And because I’ve been professional and polite with you, I’ve honored my relationship with Rich McCain. Now, even if you say no to me, I am able to respond appropriately and simply ask if we may keep in touch. I don’t have to overwhelm you or be embarrassed about calling you, as I was recommended. At this point I merely ask if we may keep in touch.
“So if you said no to me, this would be my response.”
Philip picked up his imaginary phone again and talked into it. “No, Susie? I understand. The relationship I have with Rich—and someday, if the time is right, possibly you—is more important than selling my products. I understand the timing is not right for you now. Perhaps some other time might work better. If it’s all right, may I keep in touch with you? Would that be okay?”
Susie nodded, speaking into her pencil “phone” again. “Yes, that would be fine, Philip. Thank you anyway. I’ll see you.”
“See?” Philip said. “Because I have a process in place that honors the relationship of the person who recommended me and follows up with communications that are relational in nature—professional, but still relational—I can easily disengage, and keep my dignity in place. And if I get a positive response to my request to communicate going forward and place your contact information in a group I titled Future Clients, I now have the ability to develop a professional relationship with you that someday may lead to new business.”
“Wow!” Susie exclaimed. “I should have recorded that! If I could say that as smoothly as you just did and apply it to my industry, my business would take off!”
“You will, because you will have a process behind you that’s based on the power of putting relationships first. And you will be living out the principles of this process, evoking the golden rule. You will actually be treating others as you would want to be treated yourself.” Philip paused for emphasis. “Just remember this. When you put this program in place, you must have confidence that it works—as long as you work it and live it out.”
Susie frowned. “What do you mean?”
“The bottom line is that you must take advantage of your newfound hall-pass abilities to call people. You must be proactive and you must ask for referrals, ask for recommendations, and ultimately, ask for the business. Because you are putting the relationship first—keeping in touch regularly, without fail, and leading with a helping hand—you will gain new self-esteem and confidence to ask for business and referrals. And you will do so through your authentic voice. Your clients will expect it, and your prospects will respond to it.”
Philip finished and sat back, relaxed. Susie, though, was feverishly taking notes.
“The specifics about how to do the rest is Principle 4, which I bet you’re going to be learning this afternoon.”
“Sara is a dynamo. Get ready to be bowled over. She’ll have you learning about how to consistently keep in touch within minutes.”
“Keep in touch—”
“That’s right,” Philip said. “But I’ll let her tell you. You’ll love it.”
Susie finally put down her pencil.
Just then Highground walked in, and they both looked up, amazed that two hours had already passed.
“How is my star protégé?” he asked.
“She is going to be phenomenal,” Philip said, getting to his feet.
“Are you going somewhere?” Susie asked Philip.
“Not far,” he said, pointing to the table next to them.
Confused, Susie glanced at Highground.
He explained. “Susie, I’m going to take this seat here with you again. Philip, on the other hand, has a couple coming to meet him here in a few minutes. And he will sit down with them right next to us. That way, we can hear how he educates a new client without making the couple uncomfortable.”
“Great idea. I like watching a master in action.”
That made Philip grin. “This is a couple I started working with three months ago, and I’ve asked them to come have a cup of coffee with me to run a few things by them. So this will really help you.” That’s when he saw the couple come in, right on time, and he went to meet them.
For the next forty-five minutes, Susie listened intently, amazed as Philip articulated all that he had shared with her that morning. She wished she really could record Phillip. He was so real.
For several minutes, as Philip and the couple ordered coffee and waited for it to arrive, they talked about the financial planning work he’d done for them. Then, to Susie’s surprise and delight, they asked what the Highground pin he was wearing meant. Now Philip had the perfect opening. He stated the philosophy of how he valued a lifetime relationship. And then he presented to them a directory that was titled “My Referral Team: Businesses, Professionals, and Services I’m Proud to Refer.” It had his name and contact information on the bottom corner of the cover. Susie leaned too far over, trying to see the directory, which made the couple look at her. Quickly, she coughed and moved her chair around loudly, working hard to be invisible again, which tickled Highground so much he had to muffle his own laughter. But he couldn’t hide his pleasure at her enthusiasm.
“What is this directory?” she whispered to Highground. “That’s a great idea!”
“You can do it, too. In fact, you should. It’s a list of all the businesses that make money when you make money. For Philip, it’s the accountants and attorneys he refers to his clients; for Sheila Marie, it’s the title rep, the mortgage broker, and the contractors she refers to her clients when she sells a home. It also includes all your tried-and-true businesses—dry cleaners, convenience stores, restaurants—the very establishments you tell people about all the time.
“It’s different for everyone. High-end consultants and entrepreneurs use it differently. Because it’s all done online, you can create a referral team locally, regionally, or nationally. I’ve coached some people who’ve developed an international referral team.
“Philip just got smart and printed the online pages with his cover on them so he can better explain how he works by referral and his value-added referral services. It really differentiates him from his competitors. Listen to how he explains it.”
“This is an in-depth listing of all the businesses and services that I can personally recommend in the community, and it’s available online, too,” Philip was saying.
Susie wondered if Bennie’s California Coffee Café and Bistro and Sheila Marie Deveroux Realty and Paul’s auto dealership were all in the directory. Of course they were, she realized.
And this was the moment that Philip reiterated his philosophy of business, putting the relationship first, living and working by the golden rule. When he stated that he didn’t spend much of his time or money in marketing to the general public, that he spent his energies on those he served by bringing them items of value on a regular basis, as well as investing in ongoing education for himself and his team so he could continually serve them more effectively, she quickly started taking a new set of notes.
She wrote as fast as she could, trying to capture his exact speech, especially when he said that if there was any way his staff could be of service, “just let us know.”
“You know I mean this,” Philip reminded them, since he’d already shown his excellence in the work he’d done for them. “The only thing I ask you is this: if you happen to know of any friends or associates that could use my services, you will think of me. I’ll treat them just as I have treated you. As I mentioned before, this is the way I do business. As you know, the type of clients I best serve are people just like you: similar portfolio size and similar needs.”
And that’s when he looked confidently at the couple and said, “You see, the reason you came to me in the first place was because our mutual good friend Jason referred us, remember?”
The couple nodded.
“So I’m dedicated, as you can tell, to upholding Jason’s trust that led us together. With that said, who do you know that I should be talking with about my services?”
“Our friends the Johnsons could use your help. We just mentioned your name at dinner with them the other evening. We’ll make a point of calling them tonight. Just let us write their number down for you.”
Susie couldn’t believe it. They gave Philip a referral, not a recommendation—just like he said it would happen! By living and using the system, he had created two power advocates—walking, talking billboards for him and his business.
Quietly, Highground leaned over, opened his leather briefcase, reached in, and pulled out a page. Not saying a word, he flipped open Susie’s notebook and placed the page in it. Under the image he wrote, “I’ll refer you to some friends that will set you up with a simple online version of this.”
At this point, Highground motioned to Susie that they needed to leave. Susie and Highground left the coffee shop and started walking down to the dock near where they had eaten lunch the day before.
He stopped by the same bench Susie had sat on to start her 250 by 250 list. So much has happened since then, it feels like much longer ago, Susie suddenly thought.
“I believe this spot worked for you yesterday, Susie,” Highground was saying. “What I would like you to do is take another twenty minutes or so and create three more goals. Remember how to do this? I’ve forwarded another audio file for you to listen to. Project yourself eight to twelve weeks into the future, and write like you’ve completed your goals. I’ll bring you a salad and let you enjoy some soft classical favorites and put pen to paper.”
The morning fog had given way to a lovely noon sun that set off the brilliant blue ocean, the sight that always confirmed why Susie had moved here in the first place. She sat down, pulled out her notebook, accessed the new audio file, turned to the fourth goals page, and began to write:
Goal: As appropriate, communicate with others from my third level.
Goal date: Starting now.
The date is September 15 and I have: communicated transparently with my authentic voice to all my clients and prospects.
I have already experienced: so much confidence because for the first time in my career I have not worried about impressing others. As I’ve focused on their needs and been appropriately transparent, others are responding positively to me.
I feel: a sense of happiness in that I don’t feel like I’m pretending to be something I’m not and others are responding to me in a way that I feel accepted for who and how I am.
I am excited about: the personal growth I am experiencing as I have found and connected with my own abilities to communicate, think, and act strategically like the business-relational I am, and am always putting the relationship first. I have found my authentic voice.
My associates and colleagues are: noticing my new confidence and how I am approaching my business. They are starting to ask my advice regularly. I was the featured representative on an all-rep conference call this past week.
I am determined to: continue finding opportunities to communicate from my third level with my authentic voice. I will continue to be proactive in serving others first, asking for referrals and unafraid to ask for the business with new prospects.
Goal: Professionally brand this process with my own style, and then begin a proactive communication program to use in all that I say and do with everyone I know.
Goal date: Eight weeks from today.
The date is August 15 and I have: everything available for this philosophy and process in place—from the communication on my business cards, stationery, and e-mails to an online referral team and directory that match up with me and my new philosophy. Because I have worked hard to incorporate this process with my personal style, I now feel comfortable telling people that I work mainly by referral. I have actual, tangible proof in action all around me. I am educating people on a daily basis how I can help them and how they can help me. It is truly a win-win scenario.
I have already experienced: several qualified referrals from my clients and two from my referral team. I am amazed at the people, many of whom I once thought had real control over their business, who want to know how I have set all this up.
I feel: more of who I really am. For the first time in my life, I feel really authentic about myself because I now have the freedom to be me. I love my products and what they do for others, and I feel I can competently share them with others in a way that can work for them.
I am excited about: helping others take advantage of the benefits my products offer as well as building and enjoying new relationships. And for those business owners and decision makers that want to change their game, I really am excited about sharing and giving what Highground has shown me.
My associates and colleagues are: impressed with the referrals I am generating and my professional branding of my new process and communications. Several clients have asked me to share my process with them so they can model it in their business.
I am determined to: surround myself with the right people, the right visual confirmations that I practice what I preach, so I will be genuine in making this process really mine.
Goal: Identify my Perfect Client Avatar. Identify the specific characteristics of the top clients I am currently working with or intend to work with. Incorporate the characteristics of my Perfect Client Avatar into my daily conversations with clients and peers.
Goal date: Four weeks from today.
The date is July 15 and I have: my Perfect Client Avatar in writing. In addition I have incorporated talking about my Perfect Client Avatar with my current clients, peers, and colleagues.
I have already experienced: my first referral to an individual that mirrors my Perfect Client Avatar.
I feel: much more focused on developing a clientele that is made up of a large number of my Perfect Client Avatars.
I am excited about: my business. Now, I am looking forward to Monday mornings as I am focusing 100 percent of my marketing efforts on the type of clients that energize and invigorate me.
My associates and colleagues are: asking me out to coffee to discuss my new energy, enthusiasm, and results in my business. I regularly share the need to identify the Perfect Client Avatar with my associates and peers, and I feel invigorated and energized when I share what it has done for my business.
The time flew. Before she knew it, Highground was tapping her on the shoulder and then sitting down beside her to read her goals. When he finished, he said nothing, gave her a proud smile, and then got up and beckoned her to follow him.
Hurriedly pushing her notebook back into her satchel, she stood up and did just that.
“Ready for Principle 4?” Highground asked, already knowing Susie’s answer.