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by Dorothy Leeds

Every salesperson's goal is to get a list of hot prospects. What is a hot prospect? Someone who is ready, willing and able to buy your product or use your service. Where do hot prospects come from? Many of them come from referred leads, that is, information about prospective clients or customers that comes to you from another person.

Referrals can come to you from satisfied customers, from prospects who haven't bought from you but who know other people who might be interested, from acquaintances, friends or family -- from anyone who knows someone else.

Referrals don't usually come out of the blue or on silver platters, however. Unsolicited referrals are few and far between. More often than not, if you want a referral, you've got to ask for one.

It's How You Ask That Counts

How do you ask for referrals? Think about it. What happens when you ask a friend (or anyone else) this question: "Do you know of anyone who might be interested in my product or service?" Immediately, your friend begins going through a list in his head of everyone he's ever known or met. If he's an outgoing, popular type, he might have hundreds of friends and acquaintances. Neither of you has time for him to go through all those names!

You want to make it easy for the person who's giving you the referral. You have to give her clues; you have to focus her thinking. Study your present clients and customers to see what they have in common. If all your customers are sports fans, ask: "What sports are you interested in?" Then, "Where do you usually play?" If she says she belongs to the country club, you can then ask, "Is there anyone you know at the country club that might have a need for my product?"

You might ask your clients if they belong to any professional associations or organizations. Suppose one of your clients answers, "As a matter of fact, I'm vice president of the Eastern Regional Association of Trial Lawyers." You could reply by saying, "That's terrific! Do you know of anyone there who might need my services?"

See how you've narrowed the field for him? Now he can run through a shorter, more specific list of people he knows, and is much more likely to come up with a qualified lead for you.

Question Your Way to Better Leads

There are two important things to remember about referred leads. The first is that all referred leads are worth pursuing. Not every lead will turn into a sale, but you'll never know unless you take the time to find out.

The second thing to remember is that the only way to determine the value of referred lead is by asking smart questions. The usual referral scenario goes something like this: You're at the end of a conversation with a prospect, a business acquaintance, friend or family member. Maybe you've asked for a referral. Or maybe the person has said, "Oh, I know someone you should call. Let me give you his number."

You're grateful for the lead, and you don't want to be a pest. So you take the number and walk away.

If you don't get any more information than that, all you've got in your pocket is another cold call. The purpose of asking for referrals is not just to add quantity to your list of leads -- it's to add quality leads to your list.

Ask your prospect to help you out. "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about this referral?" Most people like to feel that they're being helpful, and if they have the time, they'll be glad to give you more information.

Some questions you may want to ask are:

"What is this person's title?"

"Do you know what his responsibilities are?"

"Can you tell me anything about his company?"

"Can you tell me a little about what he's like?"

"Can I use your name when I call?"

You're not always going to get answers, but the more information you get, the better off you are. There's no way to predict who amongst your contacts will produce the best leads; therefore you should ask everyone you speak to for referrals.

If a referral doesn't work out, ask that person for a referral. Keep the chain going so you always have another lead to follow. This is known as networking.

We're All Connected

Networking is the basis for the old saying, "It's not what you know, it's who you know that counts." This elitist outlook assumed that only the "well-connected" could get ahead in life. The truth is that the power of the network, when used well, is so strong that it can make everyone "well-connected." The numbers alone are staggering. Your network consists of the number of people you come in contact with, multiplied by the number of people they know, multiplied by the number of people they know.. and so on and so on.

Networking is a vital aspect of prospecting. In fact, networking is one of the most important sales tools you'll ever use. My staff always kids me because I'm constantly networking -- sometimes in unlikely places. Whenever I travel I make friends with the people sitting next to me on the plane. When I go to meetings or conventions, I come back with dozens of business cards. Even when I go around the corner to the copy center, it's more than likely that I'll come back with a name and number to call.

You are the only one who can build, sustain and expand your network. And only by actually following up on every referred lead can you come across the one that will take you to your next sale.

Follow-up for Future Leads

Once you get a referral, you have established a whole new relationship with the person who gave you that name and number. Your goal is to keep that relationship going. Whether this referral works out or not, you may want to use this person as a source of leads again. So send him a handwritten note within 24 hours just to say thanks. Keep him posted on your progress with the referral. If you make the sale, it's time for another note or a call to say thank you. It will demonstrate that the referral was important to you, and help your referrer remember you the next time a hot prospect comes to mind!


Do you suffer from glossophobia? According to the book of lists, it is the foremost fear in the world today. It isn't bugs that we're afraid of most, or heights, or snakes, or even death. No, what the whole world is afraid of most is -- having to speak in public.

Isn't that what communication is all about -- speaking in public? Whether you're making a presentation to a large corporate meeting or talking one-on-one, you're still speaking in public. And you're probably suffering from glossophobia.

The word comes from the Greek, meaning tongue (glosso) and fear or dread (phobia). This is a fear that's taken its toll through the centuries. What are we so afraid of? What can one mere mortal, or a room full of people sitting quietly in their seats (presumably unarmed), do to you? More importantly, what can you do to fight against this common fear?


Fear is nature's way of helping you protect yourself. New or dangerous situations trigger the "fight or flight" response: Your pulse quickens, your muscles tense, and the resulting rush of adrenaline equips you for any extra effort you might need. Whether you face real or imaginary fear, physical danger, or emotional stress, the reaction is the same. And you can benefit: the adrenaline becomes energy; your mind seems more alert; new thoughts, facts and ideas arise. In fact, some of my most creative communication techniques have come to me when I was facing the toughest challenges; it is yet another gift from the adrenaline.

Nervousness can give you the edge -- and the enthusiasm -- all good speakers need. But how can you draw the line between nervousness that boosts and fear that debilitates? By understanding and tackling the three fears shared by everyone who speaks in public:

Fear of presenting poorly

Fear of the `audience'

Fear your information is not good enough


You are not alone. Worrying about your performance comes with the territory. Actors and actresses, who perform in public all the time, still suffer this fear. Even after 50 years of acting, Helen Hayes worried she would forget her opening lines. Comedian Red Skelton was always a nervous wreck before performances.

The power of privacy. Making a presentation before a group may seem like the most public act possible, but you still have privacy on your side. You don't have to reveal your nervousness; you can keep it to yourself. If you act confident, you begin to feel that way, too. People rarely look very nervous, no matter how jittery they feel. Letting go of the fear means realizing it doesn't matter if you feel nervous; the listener doesn't know how nervous you are and he won't be able to see or hear it either.

Tap into creative visualization. Expectations have a way of fulfilling themselves. If you assume your audience is going to be hostile, you'll adopt a defensive and abrupt manner. Instead, form a mental image of how you want to look or sound: creative visualization is a technique that works for many people. Close your eyes and remember the positive points from your last successful presentation. Imagine your audience as being friendly and accepting. Substitute that vision as the reality in your mind's eye and keep it there. Imagine a positive reaction and you're halfway to getting just that. Envision the role you want to play and act the part. We all have many sides to our characters; you want to show your confident side. It is there for you to tap.


Your audience (be it one or one hundred) is not out to get you. These people need your expertise (or you wouldn't be talking to them.) They want you to help them. The more confident you appear, the easier it is for them to relax and trust you.

Identify with your audience. One way to avoid the me-versus-them trap is to think about your audience instead of yourself. The more you know about your listeners, the more you'll see them as friends and the less nervous you'll be.

Communicate your enthusiasm and excitement. What you have to say is well worth your time and theirs. Your enthusiasm and excitement are contagious -- your audience can't help but catch it. And concentrating on the task at hand gets you thinking more about it than about yourself -- the perfect antidote to fear.


Whether you're just starting out on your first presentation, or you're an experienced speaker with a new client -- there's always the fear that you don't have enough information. This is the easiest fear to overcome, because you are in control of your preparation.

Do your homework. Research. Prepare. The more homework you do, the more you'll know about your clients, and the more you'll know that you have the information you need.

Practice makes perfect. Change is always a bit frightening. But don't let fear keep you from trying something new to improve your presentations. Practice your presentations at home or role-play with friends or family.


Fear may not be welcome, but it is normal. Every successful speaker has his or her own tricks to psyche out fear. The point is, even though your mind seems to work overtime before a presentation, filling you with dread, you can counter with tricks of the imagination that make you feel confident and in control. Keep working at it -- the more you do, the better you become. You may still have glossophobia, but you'll also be a better speaker.


- Admit your fear; understand its sources.

- Tap the energy that fear produces.

- Recognize that fear is normal for everyone.

- Realize your fear doesn't have to show.

- Visualize yourself as a confident, successful person.

- See your audience as your allies; focus on their needs

- Combine preparation with practice.

- Devise tricks to psyche out your fear.

- Think positively about yourself.

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