(This is Part 2 of a two-part series. See Part 1.)

If you rely strictly on a “by referral” model for your business, you are at the mercy of others in terms of when you receive referrals. If you want to take control of your lead generation, say goodbye to passive referral techniques and say hello to “power networking.”

I recently spoke in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and had a five-hour drive each way from Los Angeles. I stopped by a local bookstore and purchased an audio CD program called “Sales Success.” It contains 14 one-hour CDs from a number of major speakers, including Zig Ziglar, Tommy Hopkins and Jim Rohn. While I found plenty of useful tips from each of the CDs, the one program for me that stood out was Bob Burg’s (www.Burg.com) “Endless Referrals.” Given that there are so many speakers in the real estate industry who have comprehensive “by referral” programs, I didn’t expect to learn much from this particular CD. I was 100 percent wrong.

Burg walks listeners through a proven system that puts them in charge of building “endless referrals” through networking. Many real estate agents claim that they network. They go to events, hand out their card and hope that someone will call them. Many others attend events and hope that someone will remember that they are in real estate. Of course, they are too reluctant to mention the fact that they want business. Surprisingly, according to Burg, people who pass out their business cards are not using networking effectively. Those who are reluctant to talk about what they do are at least partially on the right path. Nevertheless, this approach is also ineffective.

Burg begins the program by asking you to identify your personal sphere of influence. This includes everyone that you know. Most people know about 250 people. If you attempt to write a list of those you know, however, you will have a hard time generating a complete list. Burg’s approach is to go to the phone book and begin with the yellow pages. Who do you know that works for an airline? Who works as doctor or dentist? Go through each of the categories and identify as many people as possible who come to mind. The second step is to go to the white pages. Who do you know whose last name starts with “A”? Repeat the process all the way through the letter “Z.” Next, use the same approach with first names. Each of these people also knows 250 people. Clearly, there are enough contacts from this one simple exercise to do a huge amount of business. The question is how to convert the people in your sphere to people who refer you business.

Burg uses the example of joining the Chamber of Commerce and attending a networking meeting. Instead of doing the standard business card exchange that usually results in no business for you, Burg suggests that you plan on meeting five or six people over the course of the meeting. He recommends that you watch the room and pay special attention to those individuals who seem to be a center of a group. These individuals are often those who have the strongest influence. Burg suggests waiting by the area where they are serving food or drinks. Sooner or later these individuals will stand up and walk to that area. When they do, put a sincere smile on your face and introduce yourself. Ask for their card, but do not offer to give them your card unless they ask for it.

Burg outlines a series of 10 questions to ask. Each question encourages the person to share information about themselves and their business. For example, if a person sells widgets, a great lead-off question is, “How did you get into the widget business?” This gives a chance for the person to tell you about their history. You can also ask, “What advantages does your company provide in comparison to the services that your competitors provide?” This allows them to sell you on their services. Now if you hear they are hiring new people and that they will need to help them find housing, do not jump in and try to close them. According to Burg, this is the biggest mistake that you can make. Instead, your only function is to ask the questions. Because you take the time to discover what is important to each individual, you will stand out from everyone else whose sole focus is to obtain more business.

Once you have asked Burg’s key questions, the most important question is this: “How would I recognize when someone is a good client for your services?” This is the most critical question to ask. Burg’s philosophy is that you earn the right to receive referrals when you have established trust and have demonstrated a willingness to help others build their business with your referrals.

When you call people and tell them you are working on building your business by referral, your focus is on you. In contrast, Burg’s approach succeeds because it’s based upon providing service and building a connection based upon trust and giving back. According to Burg, this is the secret of “endless referrals.”

Bernice Ross, co-owner of Realestatecoach.com, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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