Even with the advent of modern marketing techniques, referrals still remain the lifeblood of many businesses, especially small businesses. So how do you get that all-important business referral? In this episode, we dive into that as Jen Du Plessis interviews speaker and best-selling author, Bob Burg. Bob gets into why referrals are important, how to cultivate relationships, and how to be the right referral. Learn more by tuning in.
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Expanding Your Business Influence Through Referrals With Bob Burg
I wanted to introduce our guests in advance because of the time restraints that we have in being able to have a conversation with him. Without further ado, for many years, Bob Burg has been successfully showing entrepreneurs, leaders, and sales professionals how to communicate their value and accelerate their referral business. As you all know, I talk a lot about referrals. Although for years, he was best known for his sales classic, Endless Referrals, his book, The Go-Giver co-authored with John David Mann, is what created a worldwide movement.
While part of a four-book series Go-Giver itself has sold more than one million copies and has been translated into 30 different languages, it was rated number ten on Inc Magazine’s list of the Most Motivational Books Ever Written and was the HubSpot’s 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of all time. He’s an advocate, supporter, and defender of the free enterprise system, believing that the amount of money one makes is directly proportionate to how many people they absolutely can serve. Without further ado, please allow me to introduce my guest, Bob Burg.
Bob, welcome to the show. I am so delighted to have you here.
Thank you, Jen. What an honor to be with you.
Thank you so much. I want to dive right in. I’m so impressed with The Go-Giver because we were talking in the green room. I couldn’t find my book and I’m always vulnerable to say that’s what happens sometimes but I do remember the book. As I was saying, I was in BNI and they have a book called Givers Gain. As I was looking for that book, I stumbled across Go-Giver, so I bought both and said, “I wonder what the comparison is here.” This is something that’s powerful in my life and it has been powerful. My career is giving first, going first.
I believe in relationships and referrals. I want to dig deep into this because as we expand into the internet world and everyone starts looking at the magic bullet if I market online, I’m going to get business. I want to talk about your perspective on that, but before we do that, I’d like to take you way back. Take us way back and tell us a little bit about how this all got started. I know you wrote this book with John David Mann but how did this all get started that you wanted to create a parable? What experiences had you gone through that compelled you to share this story?
By the way, you mentioned Dr. Misner, BNI. He’s one of my heroes. He’s the person who coined the phrase Givers Gain, which the two the Go-Giver and Givers Gain totally congruent. He and I both promoted each other’s books, have had each other on our podcast. Again, I think he’s the person who brought networking the term and doing it the right way into the public sphere. We have all respect for Dr. Misner and for BNI.
As far as how this started with me, I began as a broadcaster. I was not very, necessarily very good at it. I graduated in sales, had no idea how to sell. I’d never had any formal training in the company I was with, apparently, didn’t either, so I was left on my own to flounder for a few months until I read a couple of books. This was several years ago. I’m a little bit gray in the whiskers, as they say. This was a long time ago. I went into the bookstore to find something to help me but I didn’t even know that was such a thing as books on selling.
It wasn’t a big deal back then.We know that as we continue to do and plant seeds of goodwill and add immense value to the lives of others, it is going to come back to us. That's just how life works. Click To Tweet
People knew about it who were already in sales but people who weren’t, we didn’t know such a thing existed. I considered myself very lucky to find a couple of books. One was by Zig Ziglar. One was by Tom Hopkins to the icons of those sales space. Within weeks, my sales went through the roof because I applied it by studying it. I learned it. Into the wee hours of the morning, I was studying and reading and rehearsing and learning. I had a system that a methodology. I think that was a real light for me to understand that if you didn’t know how to do something, there was someone out there who did. If you could get their books or whatever it was and attend seminars, whatever. You could learn these things.
I personally define a system as the process of predictably achieving the goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles. The key is predictability. If it’s been proven that by doing A, you can get the desired results of me, then all you need to do is A and continue to do A and you can get those results. You can break any glass ceiling. It doesn’t matter what realm of life we’re talking about. That was what started it for me. As my sales began to go well and there were, of course, lots of hiccups along the way because that’s life. That’s how it always is.
What were you selling, by the way?
I was selling media advertising, so radio and television advertising at that time.
That’s a tough line anyway.
It was great training. Again, it was self-training but it was great training. I went to another place where I was selling advertising where the sales manager was great in terms of knowing his stuff. He took me under his wing and helped me even more. I went to another company where I was selling solar energy, hot water, and heating systems to homeowners. It was a very high ticket. It was a long sale and it was great training. It was wonderful. You felt good that you got to help people doing and again, a long time ago. Eventually, I had worked my way up to sales manager of that last company and started showing others how to do what I was doing.
Other companies were asking me. They used to say it in the old Seinfeld show, and then a number of years later, here we are talking to each other. I started to speak professionally and learned how to have a professional speaking career. When you do that, you write books. One of my first books was called Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales.
It was a how-to book on how salespeople and entrepreneurs had a great product or service. They loved what they did but they knew they brought great value to the marketplace. They didn’t necessarily feel comfortable going into their local communities and building the kinds of relationships that are important for people to want to do business with you directly and want to refer you to others.
It was a how-to book but I’d always read parables since I’d gotten into sales and started reading books all the time. I loved parable. Starting with Og Mandino’s books and James Klassen’s. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could take the basic premise of endless referrals?” All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like, and trust then turn that into a parable. I held on to that idea for a few years but then I thought entitling it. What is the basic element or essence of relationships? It comes down to their givers.
They’re always looking to give value to others. Coming up with the title The Go-Giver was very natural. The greatest thing I did for this book was asking John David Mann, who at the time was the editor in chief of a magazine I used to write for and who was a great writer. I asked him, “Would you be the coauthor and lead writer, storyteller?” Fortunately, he said yes because I knew he could. I don’t know how to author. I’m step 1, step 2, step 3, and John is a storyteller. We collaborated on it, 24 rejections later before we got the 25th one. The publisher said yes and now it’s a series. We’ve been doing this for quite a while.
I know and I love the whole series. My favorite is leadership. I love that one. There are so many of them. Thank you so much for sharing that story. I have so many questions and I know we don’t have a whole bunch of times, so we’re going to try to get through this as quick as we can. There’s a couple of things. I want to talk about the know, like, and trust because this is something I talk quite a bit about with my clients. I speak a little bit on stage when I’m talking about this topic. I think that we live somewhat in an entitled society that says, “Let me take before I give.” Sometimes never give. That’s something that you talk about as one of the laws, if I recall, is of reciprocity. I do want to talk about that too.
Our law is receptivity. It’s the fifth one. Reciprocity is the law that Dr. Robert Cialdini talks about in his wonderful book Influence. The two of them are a little different. This is according to Dr. Cialdini. That aspect of human nature is that when someone does something for us, we have a psychological need to give to that person. Receptivity is simply the ability to receive from someone else.
Again, I love what you said about entitlement because what we believe is if you give value to others first, not with an attachment to receiving it. We’re not attached to it having to happen but we know that as we continue to do good things, plant seeds of Goodwill and great will as we add immense value to the lives of others, it is going to come back to us. That’s how life works and it should. It’s very logical.
There’s nothing magical or mystical about it. When you’re that person who is always focused on helping others, people feel good about you. People want to want to get to know. They like you and trust you. They want to be part of your life. That’s why we say that. If we’re talking in terms of financial, we’d say, “Money is simply an echo of value.”
It’s the funder, if you will to values lightning, which means the focus needs to be on the giving of value to others. The money, the love, the help you receive or whatever it is you receive is simply a natural result of the value you’ve provided. Receptivity, though, is that ability to receive, which so many people can’t do. That’s psychological. They can’t get past that glass ceiling.
I do know about that as well. Thank you for clarifying because, as I said, I couldn’t find the book.
That’s okay. I didn’t mean in any way to call you out or be disrespectful. I didn’t want to take credit for something that wasn’t ours.
Everybody who reads this show knows I’m an open book. I’m a big open book. I make mistakes all the time. I do think that’s something powerful too. I don’t want to go down the road on that other than to say that there’s an air about people that aren’t in a position to receive. I ask referrals all the time and I don’t get them back, but I think there’s sometimes an invisible wall that says, “I don’t want it because they don’t think I’m worth it. I don’t think I’ve given you value.” People can sense that.It's our job on this side to ask people the right questions so that we can refer them. Click To Tweet
Let me get back into this entitlement and this know, like, and trust because when I think about the people I work with. They say, “I went networking. I’ve met people and I give and no one is giving it back. They know who I am. They liked me. Why am I not getting business?” One of the things that I say all the time is, “There’s a difference between know, like and trust. They know what you do. They may like you but they’re never going to give you business until they know who you are. It’s not the know what you do but the who you are.”
There’s this entitlement thought there. A lot of people don’t go deep and give value. This is where the question is. When you said value, we talk all the time, “I want to give value,” can you define value for us? How deep does this go or does it go deeper? Is it a thought process around it? If someone says, “I gave them value,” but was it really value?
You hit this totally right on the head. Let’s go to definitions because it’s very important because we do hear the term value all the time. Let’s look at it in terms of the difference between price and value because many people think the two are the same and they’re not. Price is a dollar figure. It’s a dollar amount. It’s finite. It is what it is.
Value is the relative worth or desirability of a thing of something to the end-user or beholder. In other words, what is it about this thing, this product, service, concept, idea, knowledge, connections, what have you, that brings so much worth or value to another person that they will willingly engage or exchange their money for this value or want to be connected with you and so forth?
The key is value is always in the eyes of the beholder. It’s not what we think is a value that you did for them or gave them or this or that. It’s what they do. Now, whenever someone says, “I give and nobody gives,” it typically comes down to, “Are you giving in a way that the other person appreciates it and sees it of value or is it something you think they should see?”
That’s important. I’m thinking about that all the time because I feel like I’m a very strong connector and that’s how I met you. I must have given Sonia value because she said, “You have to meet Bob.”
She’s a huge fan of yours.
We’ve only had like a 45 to 1-hour conversation but we fell in love.
She is saying your praises.
It’s funny because that happens quite a bit. I know I’m giving value but there are other people where I feel I’m going to be the guinea pig here. From my perspective, I feel like I give in the same type of thing, the same me but there’s no reciprocation. Where’s that gap? I know that people are like, “Why can’t I go to one meeting with someone?” It strikes iron and then I go to the other one, but nothing happens.
First, it’s understanding that people are individuals and everyone has their own likes and dislikes, preferences. They pursue happiness in their own way unconsciously and so forth. We’re not going to necessarily connect with everybody we meet. It’s also a matter of discovering through asking questions what this person values. It’s not a matter of saying what do you value because they don’t know what you’re talking about.
They don’t even know what that is because we don’t know.
It’s a matter of finding out, discovering through the course of conversation, listening, and more questions for clarification. As human beings, we all come from our own set of beliefs. This is a matter of upbringing, environment, schooling, news, media, and television. By the time we’re a little more than toddlers, our basic belief system has been implanted into us. We had nothing to do with it. We weren’t able to question premises, and we accepted it. Most people grow up living their life from what I call an unconscious operating system and thinking that they’re operating out of conscious free will when we’re operating within Matrix like in that first movie.
Not only do we not know this but we tend to believe that everyone else operates out of the same basic belief system, which makes sense because what else is going to be? We don’t know anything else. That’s not true. It’s always incumbent upon us to find out how and to know how to bring value, which again is subjective, relative to that other person. Now, let’s also take it one step further. Sometimes, Jen, you can connect with it with someone and this person know, love and trust you. You’ve been great to them and they don’t refer anyone to you or some people don’t think about it. They don’t know this.
We need to gently and tactfully get with them and explain to them and ask, “How we love to be able to refer you. You bring so much value to people. I’m wondering if you would feel comfortable referring people to me who I might be able to serve?” Here’s how he would know if someone is someone that I can possibly help and we educate them. If they’re the type of person who is going to take and nod it, we have to make a decision. We may lovingly let them go from our lives in terms of business.
I was going to say. This still gets back to what you were talking about reciprocity for not being willing to have that conversation with people but there is our problem with receptivity. We’re already saying, “We’re not comfortable receiving, so we won’t say anything about receiving. We’ll hope it be.”
Hoping and praying is fine but it’s probably not a business strategy that is going to create the pray but work while you pray necessarily.
I didn’t mean to stop you when you were going down. That is totally there. Let’s talk about not the receiving of referrals but how can we be on this side a better referral partner for others?Put content out there, but when people respond, engage with them as human to human. You're simply utilizing the medium that you're using as a connection point. Click To Tweet
The first thing we would do is we find out what and who that person is looking for. I have a question I like to ask people and that is, “How can I know if someone I’m speaking with is a good referral for you?” Let’s say we’re talking to somebody who’s sells copying machines. His name is Gary. He sells high-end copying machines to businesses. At a certain point, we say to Gary, “Gary, how can I know if someone I’m speaking with is a good prospect, a good referral or the customer? How would we want to say it for you?”
He has to think about it for a moment because he’s probably never been asked that question before. He says to you, “Jen, if you’re ever in an office and you notice a copying machine. Next to that copying machine is a wastepaper basket. That wastepaper basket is filled to the rim and overflowing with pulled-up pieces of paper. That’s a good sign that the copying machine has been breaking down a lot lately. That would be an excellent prospect for me.” He has told you how to add value to his life.
It reminds me of a story I want to share real quick. I remember when I first got and BNI now. I was in BNI for several years. I was an ambassador and all this. This became easy for me but I walked in and I found out that there was a car finance guy in the BNI and there was a dog-walker in the BNI. They had never shared business.
I think what’s so funny about this. I was like, “What do you mean you never shared business?” I thought it’s our job on this side to ask them the right questions so that we can refer them. This is the going first, not, “I’ll wait for him to figure it out and maybe he’ll send me referrals or I’ll wait for him to teach me how to refer him. If he never does and I guess I won’t refer him.”
Rather take that first step in the relationship. I said, “I can’t believe the two of you have never referred.” They said, “What do you mean?” I said, “He sells cars. He talks to all these guys who sell cars all the time. Don’t they say, ‘Do you want leather or cloth? Do you have kids? Do you have dogs? Do you have a short dog? Maybe want to put a little runner on there? Do you have a big dog? You need a big car.’” “What happens with moving or taking care of your dogs?” “I have a great dog walker.”
I was talking to them about how do we do this and you said this, training our referral partners on what we want going first and in what they want. I know that I’m saying, going first to say, what can I do to help you, then that reciprocation would be naturally, “You asked that question. What can I do to help you?” If they don’t, you say, “Would you mind if I share how you could help me as well? As long as you’re comfortable doing that.”
You have nailed it. This is what leaders do. That was such wonderful leadership. You touch the lives of those two people. Plus, all the people who they will help. You did. Now I know why Sonia fell in love with you.
In the time that we have left together, there’s so much we could be talking about. I want to ask you a couple of questions. There is a very specific question moving forward here. Not so much the entitled society but everyone is looking at social media as a means to do this and want to get business and buy leads, do ads, post things, hope. What is your sense about relationships, I call this a Soaring 20s. Not the roaring but the soaring. What is your sense?
I feel like leadership is a big thing. Mindset is a big thing. There are a lot of new things that are coming out. Maybe you and I felt like that they were there forever but they’re coming forward. People are looking for that quick fix on social media and saying, “I don’t want relationships. It’s all about price. I want to get that quick fix.” What do you say to those people?
It’s certainly not sustainable to do it that way. It’s probably not even a quick fix because it tends to not happen. Those are the stories people sell you on the quick type of thing but it doesn’t have to take a long time either when we approach it correctly. Let’s go back to again when we say all things are equal. It’s not that people do business with and refer business to those computers they know, like, and trust.
It’s to those people they know, like and trust. When you’re on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, whatever the medium of choice happens to be where your customers, clients, prospects and so forth are. Simply ask yourself a question, “Is what I’m about to do pin, posts, tweet, respond, whatever. Is it likely to add value to those who will receive this message?”
If the answer is yes, then you’re on your way to something good. It doesn’t mean an instant sale but it means you’re connecting with someone on a heart-to-heart level. That’s what leads to the sale. There’s also a certain time to ask for business. Please don’t think you have to be passive about this, but you need to plan it in such a way that you’re not coming across as someone who is looking for that quick hit. People can sense that and I think people’s radar, their antenna, this point in social media. Put content out there but then when people respond, engage with them as human to human. You’re simply utilizing the medium that you’re using as a connection.
It’s interesting you said that because I’ve always said, take those relationships that are online offline.
I love that. There’s no reason you have to keep that on. No, by all means. A phone call, a personal handwritten note to someone who’s done something great or who commented on your post or someone who you want to connect with a personalized handwritten note. “Hi, Dave, or Hi Mary. Thank you so much for that kind comment on LinkedIn. Please know how much I appreciate you. Best for some things.” What a difference. They’ll probably post. They will take a picture of it and post it.
Picture the note and post it. Are you still writing a lot of hand notes? I am. I’m curious.
Me too, I am a big note writer. You or your team knew that when I send information for us to get scheduled, I always ask for your address. The whole reason I’m asking for is because I’m planning to write a note. It’s what I do. I write notes for everything.
Me too but you know what, Jen, which is it interesting? I was looking before our interview to make sure that we had your address. It says, did not provide, so I can’t write you a note until I get your address.Pray, but work while you pray. Click To Tweet
I’ll make sure you get my phone or my address. You know I was careful about that because I had a stalker once. I said, “I can’t do that.” A couple of last questions. These are quick and I don’t always ask them but I feel compelled to do it. Tell us something about Bob that we don’t know.
Can I speak in a third party?
Sure. That’s why I said that.
I love that you set me up beautifully for that. Bob is very much an introvert. He doesn’t seem to be but he is.
That’s funny you said that. I told someone that and they laughed at me because I’m so A personality out there, and I am but I’m very shy on the other side. That’s from my mom and dad. My mom was a gabber and my dad was a rocking chair thinker. You have those two attributes. That’s interesting. I also know you’re very involved with animals. Tell us a little bit about that.
I love all animals. By the way, you have a beautiful dog. He or she has walked.
That’s my grand puppy. That’s Lucy. She is part Lab and part Great Dane. She’s huge and she loves coming out to the country. We’re on 21 acres, so she loves coming out here when I’m babysitting my grand puppy.
That’s wonderful. She’s absolutely lovely. I grew up with dogs and we always had several dogs at a time and warm, wonderful, and loyal. I’ve had cats now because we foster kittens now as part of a network of people until they’re old enough to get spayed and neutered and then sent out, which should always do. I love all animals. I hate to use the word hate but I hate the idea that animals are used for our food and on lab testing and all those things. They’re mistreated. For the last 12,000 years, human beings have been awful to animals.
I feel the same way. I’m plant-based for that reason. That’s part of it. I know that you’re on the board of directors of Furry Friends Adoption and Clinic in Jupiter. I had a charity that I created called Fur Baby Food Bank. It came out after the debacle in 2008 in the mortgage industry and whether we had. We found the animals were being left in the homes as people vacated and foreclosure. It was horrible. I thought, “If you’re going through financial stress and you have to tell the kids, ‘We can’t afford this. We can’t afford that.’”
The last thing you want to do is tell the kids that you have to let Snoopy go to the adoption, to the shelter. I said, “If they’re going to the food bank to get food for their family, let’s provide food for their puppies on their animals and stuff.” It is funny because I did get asked, “Can you provide Spur snake?” I said, “No, that I can’t do.” There’s a limit to what I’m going to do. That was the charity that I had there. Thank you so much for what you’re doing for animals. I appreciate that too.
The last question I have is what would you like to leave our audience with? If there was one thing that you could say to them, a quote, a phrase, something that would empower them to take action now to make a difference in their lives. What would you tell them?
It’s determining what it is you need to do that’s going to take you to the next step of success and breaking past that glass ceiling. Whatever it is, discover it, determine it, find out what it is, then take the action. Don’t wait until you’re perfect. You don’t have to be 100%, be 80%. You can course-correct upon the way. I’m not saying do something haphazardly.
That’s not what I’m thinking at all. I’m saying there’s a certain point where we have enough information to act on. If we wait until we know more, there are diminishing returns. Once you have enough to go on, take that action. You can course-correct along your way and you’re going to get better as you go along. Your confidence will build and you’re going to be on your way to crashing through that glass ceiling.
That’s beautiful. It was so great to get to know you. Thank you so much for your time. I know you’re a super busy person. I’m so humbled that you’d be willing to come onto the show. I appreciate it very much.
My absolute pleasure. Thank you, Jen.
Again, everyone, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read this particular episode. Please take a few minutes to scroll down on your phone. Give us a great five-star rating and write a little comment about what you loved about what you learned from Bob and what you want to learn from this show. Until next time, thank you so much.
- Endless Referrals
- The Go-Giver
- Givers Gain
- Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales
- Furry Friends Adoption and Clinic
- Fur Baby Food Bank
About Bob Burg
For over 30 years Bob Burg has been successfully showing entrepreneurs, leaders, and sales professionals how to communicate their value and accelerate their referral business.
Although for years he was best known for his sales classic, Endless Referrals, it’s his business parable, The Go-Giver, coauthored with John David Mann that has created a worldwide movement.
While part of a four-book series, The Go-Giver itself has sold more than one million copies and been translated into 30 languages. It was rated #10 on Inc. Magazine’s list of The Most Motivational Books Ever Written, and was on HubSpot’s 20 Most Highly Rated Sales Books of All Time.
Bob is an advocate, supporter and defender of the Free Enterprise system, believing that the amount of money one makes is directly proportional to how many people they serve.
He is also an unapologetic animal fanatic and served on the Board of Directors of Furry Friends Adoption & Clinic in his town of Jupiter, Florida.
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