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4 Ways to Handle Buyer Reference Requests

By Michael Zipursky

A consultant was looking for help to attract more ideal clients and wanted to join my coaching program the other day.

We got on the phone and had a conversation to decide whether the program would be the right fit for them.

So if someone wants to ‘just call up a few of your clients’ I say “No” and explain why.

They were excited and wanted to move ahead.

A couple of hours later I got an email from a former coaching client that this consultant had reached out to them.

My former client shared with the eager consultant how joining my coaching program was “one of the best investments I’ve made in my life” – his words, not mine.

This got me thinking however…

How do you handle when a buyer wants references before making a buying decision?

I’ll share with you how I handle this…

1. My Duty, Not Theirs

I’ll first tell you that I don’t do this. If a buyer wants me to connect them with a current or former client I don’t – except in one case (I’ll explain in a minute). You see, it’s my job to communicate the value of working together to the buyer. Not my clients. I have great admiration and respect for my clients. I value their time and the last thing they need is to be getting calls from inquisitive folks. So if someone wants to ‘just call up a few of your clients’ I say “No” and explain why.

The only time I suggest that you make an exception, and I’ve done this in a few cases, is if the buyer is 99.99% ready to move forward. The only thing holding them back is speaking to a live person about their experience.

In that case, I’ll email the client and ask their permission with no obligations. I’ve never had a client say no. Most are delighted to share their experiences. Once they’ve given the okay I will introduce both parties by email so they can have a conversation. Every time I’ve done this and the buyer speaks with one of my clients they have signed up and became a client.

2. Be Prepared

An effective way to remove the need for a reference call is to have plenty of case studies, interviews and testimonials. For example, before I get on a call with a consultant to determine if they would be a good fit for the coaching program they receive an email. In that email they get:

  • Several in-depth audio interviews where they can hear about the real experiences others have had in the coaching program
  • A very long list of results and testimonials from consultants. These are all REAL people that with a quick search of their name or company you can find and confirm.
  • A link to my LinkedIn profile (in case we aren’t connected) where they can see not only my full background and experience, more importantly they get a long list of recommendations from clients.

We’ve had great success with this ‘pre-call package’. You can do something similar in your business.

3. They Came to You

Here’s an important point I want you to remember. If you’re doing your marketing well and have taken the right steps to setup a system and process – the buyer came to you – not the other way around.

The ones that are ready to get help. To make a commitment and take action. The ones that want results now – those are the buyers that you want to spend YOUR time with.

So if a buyer wants a bunch of introductions to references ask them WHY? If they came to you, search you out, made contact, took time out of their schedule, don’t they believe that YOU can help them?

If you get requests like this a few times here and there don’t sweat it. But if you notice it happening often it says three things:

  1. You’re not doing a good enough job of communicating your value when you talk with a buyer.
  2. Your marketing isn’t supporting your brand and authority enough and the buyer doesn’t see you as an expert.
  3. Your marketing may be attracting the wrong types of clients.

As you go through and address these three issues you’ll notice that you’ll attract higher quality clients and ones that are ready to invest in working with you more quickly.

4. Too Strict?

If you’re thinking that this is too strict of an approach here’s why it works:

You must be in integrity at all times. Time is your most valuable resource. You must guard it and prioritize accordingly.

What that means is that you only want to spend your time talking with serious buyers. Regardless of how strong your brand and expert status is, you’ll still get contacted by people that are not committed. That are simply searching for information.

That’s fine if that’s all they want. Just don’t take your precious time to get on the phone with them. To go to a meeting with them. Your marketing system should segment buyers that area ready to take action and make a commitment from the ones that aren’t.

Nurture and educate and provide value to the ones that aren’t ready. Because one day they very well may be.

The ones that are ready to get help. To make a commitment and take action. The ones that want results now – those are the buyers that you want to spend YOUR time with.

By the way, the consultant who reached out to my clients on his own accord did join the coaching program.

Note: If you want to create a marketing system and process to consistently attract your ideal clients and significantly increase the value of every project that you take on get in touch here.

What are your thoughts? How do you handle this situation currently? Can you see ways to improve what you’re currently doing? Let me know in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “4 Ways to Handle Buyer Reference Requests

  1. Claire Yi-Pellegrino says:

    I disagree. In this case you had a phone conversation. Somehow the value of investing in you wasn’t worth more than the cost. Not that you aren’t worth it but this client needed more proof of your value because they didn’t get that over the call. It’s hard to do that in a call. I know you are worth every dollar spent but it’s ok if for some it takes one or two conversations about your success with others before signing on.

    • Good thoughts though you’ll find it’s not only about value. Sometimes you’ll get on calls with people that are just fishing for information. They are excited by the idea of taking action, yet aren’t committed to actually taking any and investing in themselves and their business. The best way to deal with that is to have a better filtering process and provide as much education and value before you spend your time on a call.

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