INSIDER: The Lunch of a Lifetime

June 1, 2011

By Steven Bell, MBA Candidate

Would you like to receive more referrals?

In his 2010 book The Lunch of a Lifetime, the world's most referred real estate agent, Michael Maher, reveals his secrets to generating more referrals through effective networking. Referrals are important opportunities for sales in the increasingly connected marketplace and can help grow your business as well as your reputation. Areas such as communication, the timing of meetings and conversational focus can be manipulated to guide your partners into the "referral zone." By following the simple strategies outlined by Maher, you too can reap the benefits of referrals.

THINK POINT #1: Understand the 7 levels of communication

The Lunch Of A Lifetime

Communication is at the heart of sales. Agents will enjoy endless benefits by better understanding how to communicate effectively and meaningfully. The communication pyramid is a great representation of the impact of different types of communication. The lower levels are known as the informational zone and include advertising, direct mail, and electronic communication. Communicating in this way promotes awareness to potential clients but doesn't meaningfully connect with them. The upper levels are known as the influential zone and include handwritten notes, phone calls, events and seminars, and finally 1-on-1 meetings. These types of communication resonate with the client and make them feel important and valued. It is within this influential zone that a powerful emotional connection is made between yourself and the receiver. The receiver will reward this connection, both with initial business and loyalty. You will truly be heard when communicating in the influential zone.

THINK POINT #2: Utilize the networking stack

When other people talk about you, it is far more powerful than when you talk about yourself. Most people would agree with this insight, but how do you put it to work? A simple strategy to generate "buzz" for yourself is called the networking stack. In short, if you have multiple networking events during the day, schedule them all back to back. If your networking lunch ends at 1:00 pm then arrange for your next meeting to start at the same time. In this way, you will have arranged for your lunch partner to meet your meeting partner. Ask to step away for a call and the two partners will be left alone to discuss the only common bond between them, YOU! If you have a great relationship with one then they are likely to tell the other all the wonderful things about working with you. Arrange all of your daily meetings in this fashion and there is a great chance other people will be talking about you.

THINK POINT #3: Guide the conversation away from yourself with F.R.O.G.

Now that we know how to connect meaningfully and time meetings to generate buzz, it's time to get to the meat of generating referrals. Once the partner is at the table and thinks of you in a positive light, continue leading him/her into the referral zone with guided conversation. A simple rule for this conversation is to focus on them, not you. It isn't always easy to initiate a fluid conversation with a complete stranger; however, a helpful tool is the acronym F.R.O.G., which stands for Family, Recreation, Occupation, and Goals. To begin the conversation, start at the beginning of the acronym (F) and ask 1-2 questions about the client's family. Focusing on a spouse or child will provide a comfortable platform for the client to begin talking about himself. Successively move through each letter of the acronym, emphasizing recreational, job-related and future-oriented activities to keep the conversation flowing and attention away from you. This tactic may sound simple but there is great value in simplicity; this resource would not be practical if you couldn't remember it. Next time you are stuck in a fading conversation, turn to F.R.O.G. for a plentiful source of light-hearted material.

THINK POINT #4: Ask the right questions to generate referrals

All of the other strategies thus far have set the table for a great partnership. The final move in this match is to ask the three most powerful referral-generating questions:

  • What is your biggest challenge right now?
  • What have you tried so far to overcome that challenge?
  • What are you going to do next to conquer the challenge?

With each question, do your best to help them come up with the answer. The questions shouldn't simply be asked in light conversation, but rather in a way where you can sincerely offer input to help the partner accomplish his/her goals. In response to this sincere understanding and helpfulness, they are going to ask how they can help you. After you have given, be ready to receive; it is human nature to return a favor with a favor! By following these steps, agents will be able to effectively communicate, generate buzz, guide partners into the right frame of mind and finally receive the best gift of all: a referral

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Recommended Reading

Maher, Michael (2010),

The 7 Levels of Communication, Indiana: AuthorHouse

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About the Author

Steven Bell, MBA Candidate, December 2011, Baylor University
Graduate Assistant, Keller Center for Research and Center for Professional Selling

Steven is a graduate student from Cuero, TX, currently pursuing an MBA degree with a concentration in entrepreneurship. He earned his BBA in general business from Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.