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How to Get Referrals with Bill Cates

George Grombacher February 8, 2023

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How to Get Referrals with Bill Cates

LifeBlood: We talked about how to get referrals, how technology has changed this process, how to build a referral-based business, why it’s ok to ask for help, and how to do it, with Bill Cates, the Referral Coach, client acquisition expert, hall of fame speaker, and best-selling author. 

Listen to learn what it means and takes to be referable!

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Bill Cates

Bill Cates

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Hi this is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Bill Gates. Bill. Are you ready to do this?

Bill Cates 0:22
I am ready. And George, if they just misheard you there, it’s not Bill Gates, Bill Gates with a C, I missed it by just one letter and a few billion brain cells and a few billion dollars.

george grombacher 0:36
So either lots be more people are gonna tune in or we may even lose a couple, but we’re gonna we’re gonna ride this thing out, Bill. Yes, sir. client acquisition expert. He is the referral coach. He is a Hall of Fame speaker, award winning Best selling author. He is a podcast host of the top adviser podcast. And Bill’s been a mentor of mine from afar for many years. So Bill, I’m excited to finally meet you in person. Have you on the show? Tell us about personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Bill Cates 1:10
Yeah, boy, I wish I had time for my life story. And we could get everybody to sleep. But you know, essentially what happened is I owned a book publishing company, a couple of them actually. And I sold them I sold one for a pretty good chunk of money. I sold the other one to get out of debt, to have my partner assume the debt. So you know, when someone says they sell a business, yeah, maybe they made money, maybe they just, you know, got out of a bad thing. But in any event, I was looking for the next thing to do. And a buddy of mine, Frank Ingo said, you know, you should be a professional speaker, you should be a consultant, you’d be good at it. You gotta lifeflight a lot of life lessons. And I said, Okay, I don’t know what that is. And I slowly figured it out. And I joined the National Speakers Association and hanging out with other people who do what I do. And gosh, over 30 years later, here I am helping people grow their business.

george grombacher 2:02
Oh, amen. So entrepreneurship book publishing, no more you. You’re obviously a writer. But that doesn’t mean that you should own a book publishing business are several of them. How did that come to be?

Bill Cates 2:17
Yeah, so actually, what happened real quick. I was on an airplane reading Atlantic Monthly. I don’t know if anybody ever reads Atlantic Monthly anymore. But you know, it was the magazine, one of those things with paper that you open and read. And there was an ad there. And it was one of these. It’s called an advertorial. And it’s so it’s an ad, but it looks like an editorial. And the title was dollars in your mailbox. And this a long time ago, and I said, I wouldn’t mind dollars in my mailbox. And it was all about selling information through the mail. This was before the internet. So it was direct response, advertising, direct response, marketing, really what the internet is. Now all the same principles are at play. But back then it was through the mail and such. And so I ended up helping somebody publish a cookbook, and selling that to ads and whatnot. And I ended up actually starting to cookbook publishing companies, not a cook, I’m an eater. But I saw the market for it, and did pretty well. We sold books, you know, in grocery stores, and in kitchen stores. And, you know, online, I had online, or I had a newsletter that was paper newsletter that we sent out. So had a big enterprise go in there. But you know, my heart wasn’t really in it. I never really aspired for that. And so I sold it just to try something new. And so yeah, I guess I’ve always been an entrepreneur of some sort how I got here, I don’t know, my parents were, you know, children of the Depression, you grow up, you know, they grew up with very safe lessons. My mother would say, don’t quit a job until you have the next one lined up. So how I got in the risk taking I couldn’t tell you, but, you know, it seems to work. Life

george grombacher 4:08
is a funny thing. It is so fascinating, right? It wasn’t that long ago, maybe it feels like a really long time ago, you’re reading that advertorial in a paper magazine. And, you know, fast forward and now we have, you know, Chet GPT, or whatever it is. That’s that’s that’s going to revolutionize the world is probably appearance too far for this conversation. But you’ve been helping people to develop their businesses through the power of referral for a long time. We were joking that I have your CDs from when I started in the financial services business in 2001. Where are we today? How how has that business switched? How is the business of getting referrals changed if if at all?

Bill Cates 4:53
Well, the principles have not changed at all at meaning that for most businesses, there obviously are exceptions. but particularly for a service businesses, professional services, how does someone want to meet you, they want to meet you through a recommendation from someone they trust. So, you know, social proof recommendations, testimonials, as my friend used to call them testimonials. That that that has not gone away, it’ll never go away. I mean, even before there was internet, before there was telephone before there was telegraph, someone wanted to do business in the next town, he could say he or she, but back then it was probably a he, for the most part, unfortunately, would, you know, would bring a letter of introduction. And so that’s really the way of the world it is. And so everything I do falls under the umbrella of what I’ll call relationship marketing. And it doesn’t mean you can’t have success with social media advertising. Heck, I, you know, I grew up doing that as well. It’s just that I gravitate towards the relationship side of that. And so that the all those principles haven’t changed, you still have to be referral in the eyes of whoever’s going to introduce you for whatever reason. Now, what has changed a little bit? Is the how you get connected with that new prospect, because there was a time and even if it’s not a prospect, if it’s just someone, you know, possible, strategic partner for your business, whatever it looks like, there was a time when you could call people and they’d answer their phone, right? Those days are pretty much past for the most part, only time I answer, my mobile phone is number one, I know who it is, or I’ve got someone coming to the house to work on my furnace or something, and I don’t know their number. So I’ll take a flier and I’ll and I’ll answer it, right. So we’ve got to get introduced, we’ve got to get connected. And that’s been a big emphasis lately is how do we actually get introduced in person email, Zoom three way, whatever it may be text. So that’s one thing that has changed a little bit over the years.

george grombacher 6:57
Yeah, I appreciate that. And I’d love the just reminding me and everybody else that Yeah. Hey, who am I, I have this letter from from XYZ from the senator from the president from the mayor, just somebody who is

Bill Cates 7:11
well respected. Yeah, it’s borrowed trust, we borrow the trust, long enough to earn our own trust. And sometimes that borrow trust takes us a long way. Right? Sometimes people say, Well, you work with my friend, George, yeah, I’m happy to. Or they say, Well, you know, I trust your words. So you know, tell me more. And so at least get your foot in the door, if nothing else. So when I’m consulting with folks, and I’m thinking of my own business, and I’m trying to move in a certain direction, or meet some people, the first place I’m gonna go is not advertising. It’s not, you know, internet posts. It’s not any of that it’s Who do I know, right? What relationships do I have in place that can help me get there? That’s the first place you want to look? What is the path of least resistance? What is the warmest path to get to where you want to go? And it doesn’t mean you can’t do the other things eventually, you may. But first, let’s start with the relationships that are in place. And sometimes that’s all you need.

george grombacher 8:09
And people have people forgotten about that.

Bill Cates 8:12
Some not all, know, not all there are some people that are drawn to it naturally. Some are better at it than others. It’s interesting, I have a lot of people come to me that say they used to be good at it. But things have changed so much. They feel like they’ve lost their confidence. And they also feel a little guilty, because they know they have good relationships, we’re just not they haven’t figured out how to leverage them in a way that works for everybody. And I think a lot of people grow up, you know, not thinking in terms of that they think in terms of some of it is they get enamored by the shiny objects of of what social media and things like that can do. And I’m not going to diminish those subsystems, some people haven’t had great results. I think LinkedIn is kind of become the new cold calling for a lot of people. Right, we get a lot of unsolicited messages on LinkedIn these days. But nonetheless, I don’t want to diminish that. And I think a lot of people just don’t think about the relationship side very much. Sometimes I call referrals forgotten gold. It’s right. Everybody knows the power, the value, but people just haven’t put it at the top of their list. For whatever reason, I think sometimes. Also real quick is people hide behind the technology. Developing relationships, not as easy a little messier. takes a little longer sometimes. I think sometimes where people used to hide behind the mail, they’d mail things out. Now they hide behind email or LinkedIn or other broadcast types of messages when they really be better off talking to some folks and talking to some folks before they send those emails and broadcasts out to everybody. So that’s that’s my take anyway,

george grombacher 9:55
yeah, I think that that makes a lot of sense. It is easy to hide and to your point it always has been, you know, there’s places to hide if you didn’t want to pick up the telephone, there’s places to hide through being able to mail now it’s email, but now it’s it’s it’s LinkedIn messages or social media messages. You mentioned haven’t figured out how to leverage a relationship in a way that works for everybody. But does that mean?

Bill Cates 10:22
Yeah, so um, and we’re not just talking about prospecting for a business, because I know a lot of people listening may not be a business owner, or that’s, that’s not why they’re on here. But to get wherever we want to go in life, quite often, we can’t do it by ourselves, we need other relationships, right? So whatever kind of relationship we’re trying to develop this, this kind of goes under that. And that is, number one. It’s okay to ask for help. See a lot of people, you know, and I think but mistakenly believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, like my wife, I touch the hot stove twice with my wife, I don’t do it anymore. I said, Would you like some help with that? She says, If I needed help, I’d ask for it. Okay, you know, twice, no more. And so the truth is, and psychologists will tell you that that willingness to ask for help is actually a sign of high ego strength, high self esteem. So a lot of people mistakenly think that asking for help that meet someone else, or for advice on their business, whatever is a sign of weakness, and that’s a mistaken belief. It’s a limiting belief, unfortunately. So that’s one thing. A lot of people don’t realize it that often, if you are going to ask for help, it does help to have a little bit of what they call the emotional bank account taken care of right, where you’ve given some value to that person in some way, or you lead off the conversation with how can I be of value to you rather than just asking. Now, some people say you have to give referrals to get referrals. And while that can be very helpful, you don’t necessarily have to give referrals to get referrals, but you do have to be referral. And it does help to provide value. I’ll give you a classic example. A colleague of mine, I wanted to do at the time, some more keynote, big stage kind of speaking. And I asked him for some possible introductions. And he says to me, Bill, you’re the referral guy, you know, you got to get referrals to get referrals. And I said to this guy, his name is Warren. I said, Warren. Yeah, I understand that. And I think that sometimes that is the case. You may recall, two weeks ago, I spent an hour and a half with your team about how to sell online training. Was that valuable to you guys? Oh, yeah, I guess it was, you know, a mistaken belief. But the principle is true. Are we referral? How do we provide value to that person. So we can tap into that law of reciprocity, etc. Sometimes, by the way, we just got a gift to give. And let’s not worry about giving the get, let’s just give the give one of the hardest things people have trouble have people have trouble with, not everybody is donating or giving anonymously. Right? Try it some time. It’s interesting, because that dynamic you feel, especially if you have a high ego, to give in ways that, you know, you’re not going to really get anything back other than just that intrinsic, you know, good feeling of helping somebody out

george grombacher 13:36
is really interesting. I was just in a museum over the holidays, and they’ve got all the donors prominently displayed. And, and I saw big spots for it says anonymous, and so I spent a little bit time thinking about that. And number one, I joke to myself, you know, that anonymous person is sure given a lot, and I remember exactly what the joke was, but you sort of get it. Right, right. But how interesting, what is the psychology behind that? And what what, what, what does that feel like? So it’s interesting.

Bill Cates 14:06
Yeah, it’s true. Well, I’ll give you an example. One of my mentors and friends, colleagues, neato Cobain, he’s the president of High Point University, my daughter went to school there. One of the exercises he does, with kids, with the students and other folks is, he’ll bring a roll of of $1 bills. 100. And I’ll give one everybody there. And they go, you know, the kids, especially young, and they go, he says, your job is to give this away in some way that people won’t know, who left it there. And it’s just to get into that, that mindset and that feeling. And so I’ll never forget, we were in a hotel, and I had my niece and my daughter with me. And we’re like walking along where Anita was doing his thing. And there were dollar bills, like, tucked in the, in the door handles, you know, and, and, and Jen and Casey says, Oh, can we take those and I go well, why don’t you take one and leave some for others? Right You know, so That’s a whole other conversation.

george grombacher 15:03
Yeah, but I absolutely love that. And it’s, it’s an interesting, just experiment and thought experiment and everything else. Are you a guy who believes in karma and sort of sort of the universe bill?

Bill Cates 15:17
Yeah, I mean, I believe that that certainly, you know, what we do have has, you know, reverberates vibrates in the world. You know, I don’t know exactly, whether it’s karma what you call it, but yeah, I mean, our actions have consequences. And I think there’s things that we don’t know exactly how that works. It’s kind of amazing in a lot of ways. So yeah, as you give you reap, and, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. Can we make the direct connections all the time? Not? Not always. But yeah, I believe there’s something to that.

george grombacher 15:52
Yeah. So you’ve mentioned it a couple of times, what does it mean to be recoverable?

Bill Cates 15:58
Ah, well, people have to trust you. They have to trust your integrity, they have to trust your process and the value that you’re going to bring to other people. It helps that they like you to, in fact, really, in from a business standpoint, there’s two elements. One is a value connection, meaning they appreciate the value that you bring your knowledge, your experience, your process, the product, the service, all of that. But then there’s also the personal connection, the like the trust, and they usually both have to be there. And, you know, if someone sees your value, they get your value, but they don’t really know if they can trust you, you’re like, you’re, they’re not going to do business with you, they’re not going to introduce you. If someone likes you or thinks you’re cool, they really trust you. They grew up with you. But they know you’re new at what you’re doing, or they’re not sure they really know what you’re doing yet. Well, they’re not going to do business or refer either. So both of those have to be there. And one of the things I teach in our systems is that that value connection and personal connection needs to be attended to throughout the lifetime of the relationship from the minute we meet someone, the courtship of getting to know someone to onboarding them into our business, if that’s what we’re doing. And throughout, we’re always attending the both sides the value connection, and the personal connection. And that’s really what it takes to be referral. Some people will refer to help others with your value, some will do it to help you. And the best are the ones who will do it to help both right they see your value they want to they become advocates for your value, but they also want to help you be successful too. And knows of the advocates that we those are the relationships we really want to nurture.

george grombacher 17:46
Yeah, like that makes a lot of sense. I hope so.

It’s it has gotten you this far.

Bill Cates 18:01
So I guess so yes.

george grombacher 18:07
Is it possible to do it halfway? It’s I’m sure it’s a stupid question. But you need to is it is possible to do halfway Do I Do I go all in on referrals? I bite I do all?

Bill Cates 18:21
Well, I mean, if you’re asking, Is it possible to build a 100% referral based business? Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot of people do it. Some are very successful, some have built referral only, but they’re not necessarily successful. I’ve run into both help both. And I’m not going to say that necessarily you have to or want to, it depends on the kind of business you’re trying to build. If you’re trying to scale your business, you’re trying to grow quickly, you you may feel the need to grow faster than what the relationship marketing strategies can do for you. So you may need to do other things. Also, general marketing, having a reputation and a target market, if you will, can make a big difference that helps all the other things work. So there’s a lot of elements that go into growing a business. But for professional services, and you know, service type businesses, generally speaking, that word of mouth referrals, the introductions, it’s, it should be the cake, not the icing on the cake at least. Right? A lot of people flip it right. They see referrals, introductions, is the icing on the cake. Oh, yeah, we’re also getting some referral. It should be the other way. Now, that’s the cake. Let’s get that one baked and doing well. And if the other things are working and producing some nice results that are cost effective, will that make sense to

george grombacher 19:49
love it? Well, Bill, thank you so much for your work. Thank you for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage where can they get your books, all of it?

Bill Cates 19:59
Sure. I put reciate it Well, Bill Cates ca t ‘s I’m on LinkedIn, obviously. Referral referral My most recent book I think a lot of people will find pretty interesting because it’s how to talk about your value and in a way that people respond is called Radical relevance. And so if you go to radical relevance Radical relevance book dot coms quick little fun video, and you’ll learn a little bit about that. And you might find that to be pretty helpful read,

george grombacher 20:31
love it. If you enjoyed as much as I did show bill, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, find bill on LinkedIn, go to his website and check out all things Bill Gates referral and then check out his newest book, it’s radical relevance And I know that sometimes that’s something that I struggle with is how to articulate the value that I am working to bring to the world and perhaps you do as well. So I’ll look forward to digging that one personally. And I can attest to the quality and effectiveness of all of Bill’s work and systems and certainly encourage you to take advantage and check it all up. Thanksgiving bill.

Bill Cates 21:13
You bet. Thank you.

george grombacher 21:15
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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