Being Very Specific Generates More Referrals

A couple of months ago, I was the guest speaker for a group of senior female professional service providers (lawyers, bankers, accountants, financial planners, consultants and commercial real estate brokers.)  My speech, Counterintuitive Thinking for Growing Your Business helped the women understand the power of being specific in business development.

At the end of the speech, we held a workshop to let each participant fine tune their message and harness the power of being specific.  After three minutes of encouraging a commercial real estate lawyer to become more focused, she finally told the group she was especially good at helping buyers and sellers of low income multi-family housing that is financed through HUD.  Before I could jump up and say YES!, one of the participants started screaming.  Here is what she said. “I have been sitting next to you for 90 minutes.  We talked about what each of us did. My husband is about to buy

a low income multi-family property and needs an attorney with HUD experience.  I knew you were a lawyer that handled commercial litigation, but I never connected that you were perfect for what my husband needed.”

This is just one example of how the power of being specific can produce results.  If you are specific, you will normally get one of three responses- A miracle, a referral or a transfer.

A miracle is when you are a perfect match to what the person needs.  And the reason it is a miracle is that it does not happen very often.  It is also the most common reason why people try to avoid being too specific.  However, the other two options are more likely and support the premise that being specific will increase the odds of producing a better outcome.

The second possible response is a referral.   This is when the person hears what you do and offers to refer you to someone who needs your exact area of expertise.

Finally, a transfer is when you impress someone with your experience in one area and they ask if you can help in a related area.  In the example above, it might have been buying or selling luxury multi-family developments.

By being specific, you have three potential positive outcomes.  By being general, the best you can hope for is a “how nice” or a “that was interesting” response.  The chances of generating a quality lead in the general approach is at best a long shot, not even as good as a miracle.

Explore posts in the same categories: Having the right message

5 Comments on “Being Very Specific Generates More Referrals”

  1. Susan Says:

    Great examples! I have learned invaluable lessons from listening to you! Thank you

  2. Jason Jones Says:

    MIke – There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling of telling someone what you do and watching their eyes glaze over. Either they’ve “heard it before” or they smile politely, but you can tell they “just don’t get it”. At the same time, there is nothing more exciting than when the lightning strikes and what you tell them “connects” in their mind.

    Being specific is the only way to get the lightning to strike – as it did in your example with the attorney for HUD properties.

    However, a question comes to mind. “What is TOO specific?”


    • Mike Wien Says:

      What is TOO Specific Jason? I don’t know….I have never seen it. I look forward to the day when someone comes up with something too specific. In today’s Wall Street Journal (June 9th) there is a front page article on the revival of the play Annie. A New York musical theater school came up with the idea to develop a workshop for kids trying out for Annie. That sounds too specific. It sold out in 12 minutes!

  3. Michael Rosenbaum Says:

    We all mock the shotgun approach to marketing, but avoiding the trap is another matter entirely. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Leslie Kuban Says:

    I completely agree. There is also an underlying perception issue at play. When I hear someone be very specific about what kind of referral they want, it makes me feel that they have gained a degree of expertise in working with that kind of client. I’ll feel more confident about making that referral, and putting my reputation on the line by doing so, when I feel that person/company is an expert in working with that particular kind of client. Conversely, trying to appeal to anyone and everyone gives me the perception of desperation and lack of experience – not attractive.

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