Referrals and Reputation: Part 1

Part 1: Our First Referral Conversation

For those of you who don’t know, in addition to founding GCP Industrial Products, I have also been coaching entrepreneurs for more than 20 years at The Strategic Coach in Toronto, Canada. I have had the privilege of coaching more than 3000 passionately driven business leaders from around the world. When the topic of referrals comes up, I almost always connect it to my clients in the financial services industry.

One of the major reasons why is because referrals are an important tool financial advisers use to grow their book of business. Unfortunately, their process can sometimes feel hollow when you sense the only benefit of referring someone to the adviser is for the sole gain of the adviser. This self serving proposition results in a negative association and causes many to not want to repeat this process for their own business.

Regrettably for us, when we have this attitude we miss a tremendous opportunity to leverage all the good work we do in our businesses. What I mean is, our people, customers, suppliers, truck drivers, advisers, stakeholders all talk about the organization.

Every one of those conversations, intentional or not, impacts your reputation. Each one of those interactions, in its own way, is a referral conversation.

We live in a highly competitive world, one where we have to compete for customers, suppliers and employees. Finding and retaining great people is more challenging than ever. And if you believe the projected stats, industry experts predict more than 2 million manufacturing positions in the USA will go unfilled by 2020. Making the conversations that go on with your stakeholders all the more important. A positive word about your company, can make the difference between “making the sale” or losing out on a potential great hire.

From a customer’s perspective, it is expected, or rather given, the products and services they purchase from you will be of the highest quality. However, in order for your customers to refer you to their peers, you need to up your game. It is time to be conscious of the referral conversation and the positive impact it can have.

I can relate this to our own story, one that had a major impact on GCP’s opportunities, growth, and ability to get better. It occurred in early 2000’s when GCP was primarily selling to Canadian companies only. We know there was a significant opportunity in the USA, but how do we break in?

To help we hired a full time sales rep in Chicago whose main responsibility was contact potential customers across the country. After some unsuccessful months, a big break finally came with a company located in California. They were interested, but wanted to know about our quality, service and in short our reputation. Basically could GCP deliver?

The prospect asked about our experience and our ability to deliver in large quantities, specifying the opportunity was multiple container loads per month. Over several conversations it became clear my saying GCP could perform was not going to be nearly enough to land them as a customer. So I played the only card I had left. I asked one of our Canadian distributors to talk the California prospect on my behalf. Fortunately the two companies did not compete, so an honest conversation about GCP could take place. Their conversation resulted in the California prospect becoming a customer and has since developed into GCP’s largest and most important customer partner.

I am very certain that without the good word from our Canadian friends, GCP would not have converted this prospect. I have, and always will be grateful for the support GCP received.

This was GCP’s first referral conversation.

Part 2: Growth Through Referability will be posted Dec 6, 2017.

Until Next Time