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Training "Bird Dogs" for Fetching Referrals

Tom Ninness
Jan 23, 2010

Game bird hunters depend on their dogs. Each dog is carefully trained to sniff out the birds, vigilantly sending them to flight and then watching intently as their masters take a shot. When birds are hit, the dog immediately seeks it out for retrieval. A dog’s natural instinct would be to grab the bird tightly and claim it as its’ own, but instead it is trained to gently pick up the bird and take it back to the hunter. The dog is so focused that their whole experience revolves on observation, following and seeking out, based on the subtle command of their master. Sales professionals follow many of the same tenants of the bird dog: focus, observation, and seeking out. It takes a great deal of focus within your particular type of sales, knowing the product and knowing how it will relate to people who are interested in it. In addition, sales professionals need to have a keen observation of the elements around them, the economic conditions, the desirability of the product and how the product relates to specific situations. In all sales, seeking out is perhaps the most important. Knowing how to generate and follow up on leads, and training those around you to become the “bird dogs” for your business. It is impossible to establish a solid business without developing the sphere of influence around you….Professional referral sources, those in other professions that may be able to cross sell your business, networking, and lead generation. Belonging to specific groups will lead to the “bird dogs” of your business. Networking can be a vital part of your business building strategy as long as the group offers productivity. Belonging to a group just for the sake of social interaction, a great lunch and an occasional speaker really isn’t a productive use of time. Especially if the group requires a great deal of your free time in projects that benefits them, but doesn’t necessarily benefit you. Look at network groups as a means of business interchange….ideas, solutions and the exchange of referrals. There is a great deal to be said about being involved in civic groups, such as Rotary, Kiwanis or Lions clubs or participating in efforts supported by your church or temple. They do a tremendous amount of valuable work for their communities and around the world. These types of clubs benefit you in ways that can never be measured, but not always in a business sense. Business and volunteer work do not go hand in hand. Volunteer for the pleasure it gives you and for the sense of community and commitment it can offer. Referrals are the life blood of sales, and this is where the real “bird dogging” takes place. Referrals won’t happen unless they are asked for on a regular basis. The process needs to be systematic and people need to be reminded that referrals are needed to sustain your business. This means that you have to provide a top notch service worthy of the expectation of a referral. In the mortgage industry, referrals need to be a systematic process. Ask the clients for names of their friends, family or co-workers that may be considering the purchase of a home within the next 15 months. Explain that in order to begin the education process, you’d like to start talking to them now. Information will arm the potential client so that when they are ready to buy, they will be ready to buy with you. A high level of trust and relationship will have already been established. Don’t hesitate to emphasize the importance of referrals sustaining your business, but also that you take the care and nurturing of those referrals very serious. Service must be implemented, and the current client completely satisfied before you can start “bird dogging” for a referral. Your current client must have a high degree of satisfaction, trust and a feeling of relationship before they will be willing to share referrals. Power partners are companies or professionals that provide products or services in your value chain but do not compete directly with your product or service. These companies and the professional individuals that sell for them should be excellent bird dogs for you. Be loyal to them and they will be loyal to you in finding referral sources. Great bird dogs for your business are those that are high centers of influence. These are individuals who have multiple relationships with potential clients and because of the relationship you have built with them, they are motivated to routinely feed you contacts for your marketing efforts. Reciprocity is the key here. Bird dog for others as you would have them bird dog for you. The market is crazy. In order to grow your business bird dogs are your best friends. Once you find them, train them, earn their respect, deliver what you promise, reward them and you too, will have a well trained bird dog retrieving referral after referral for you. Tom Ninness is Vice President/Regional Production Manager for Cherry Creek Mortgage in Denver, CO. He is also the President of Summit Champions, Inc. and creator of the “The 90 Day Journey to Your Sales Success”, a powerful 90 day action plan for the sales professional. To learn more about The Journey and Summit Champions, go to or contact Tom at [email protected], or 303-840-0753.
Jan 23, 2010