The Natural Progression That Leads to Referrals by Cynthia Greenawalt

The Natural Progression That Leads to Referrals

{3:01 minutes to read} For close to 20 years, I’ve been coaching and training business owners and sales professionals in the art of referral generation to grow their business. At the heart of someone’s success in unlocking referrals from their network is mastering the art of developing and cultivating meaningful — even magical — relationships with other professionals.

This cultivation process is a fascinating progression to behold. If we were to map out the relationship progression that leads to referrals, there are many ways we could do this. One common diagram for illustrating a progression is a hierarchy — such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or mapping out someone’s movement up the corporate ladder — where the flow is in an upward direction. In some cases, progression is mapped out using the learning curve or bell curve as the diagram, where the movement is up and to the right. My favorite way to illustrate the concept of progression is to think of it in terms of a funnel: wider at the top and getting narrower as we move downward through the diagram.

As we explore the progression of relationships as it pertains to referral generation, let’s turn to nature for a powerful analogy. Imagine the process through which a seed becomes a fruit-bearing plant. Many seeds are planted, a smaller number take root and form a plant, and an even smaller number will actually bear fruit. The funnel progression illustrates this beautifully: wide at the top with all the seeds going into the ground, and the most narrow at the bottom where you get the fruit.

I love how the art of unlocking referrals from our network (aka cultivating fruit-bearing relationships) can be mapped onto a funnel diagram much like the seed-into-fruit progression in nature. I’ve heard many people use these 3 words — know-like-trust — as a simple yet powerful way to describe the natural progression of a relationship. Imagine a funnel moving downward, illustrating these 3 stages of relationship development:

  1. Know You (seed)
  2. Like You (plant)
  3. Trust You (fruit)

As a relationship is cultivated, it deepens through each stage of the funnel. The roots (i.e., the foundation) expand, and the other person grows closer and more connected to us. “Trust You” is the fruit-bearing stage — where someone is willing to act as a referral source (or raving fan) by bringing business and opportunities our way. Here is the most important thing about this process: if we look for a referral from someone prior to arriving at the Trust You stage, it’s premature. When we pull fruit off the tree before it’s ripe, what happens? It’s sour. And a relationship can be soured by looking for the fruit too early. It means we didn’t honor the natural progression of the relationship.

Just like a farmer makes it his or her business to study and master that which increases the yield from a particular crop, successful networkers are those who embrace referral generation and relationship development as an art form worthy of mastery.

Cynthia Greenawalt

Cynthia Greenawalt

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