REFERENTIAL TREATMENT

Wise advice when referring to such enterprises.

In my opinion references are not only a two way street, they are a multi-lane overpass leading in so many possible directions that you never know where the road might eventually end. If it does end.

References should be looked upon the same way you look upon clients and employees, as Human Capital.

 

5 Things Super-Smart People Do to Prepare Their References

Great references can help you clinch a job offer or new client. So why not help them help you?
IMAGE: Getty Images

You’ve applied for a job or pitched a new customer. Interest seemed high, and you’ve provided a list of references in hopes of closing the deal. But do you know exactly what those references will say, and whether–even inadvertently–they’re failing to make you seem like a top contender?

Before you give a reference, your best strategy is to know exactly what that reference will say. And while it can seem awkward to prepare a reference for questions he or she may receive, that’s exactly what you should do. That advice comes from career counselor Peter K. Studner, author of the book and website Super Job Search IV. Here’s the approach he recommends:

1. Choose your references carefully.

You want your reference to not only sing your praises, but also support any claims you’ve made about your skills, or the qualities of your product and service. So try to choose people who’ve had specific experiences that will show you and your work in the best light. If you’re referring customers, look for those who can tell a good story about how your product or service solved a problem in exactly the way you want to promote. If you’re applying for a job, consider former managers–but also people you’ve managed and helped to mentor, particularly if you’re looking for a managerial position.

“In addition, put some thought into how your references might present you to potential employers,” Studner advises. “Effective references are good communicators who can discuss you and your work in an objective manner without exaggerating.” A reference who’s bad at communication, impossible to reach, or will offer an unnecessarily long-winded tribute might do you more harm than good.

2. Figure out how each reference can best help you.

An innocent comment about your personality or approach can easily raise a red flag with a hiring manager or cautious customer, so try to have as good an idea as you can of what your reference might say. If you can, set the stage by letting each reference know the specific skills or benefits of your product you would like them to mention. This might be different from reference to reference, and depending on the customer or job you’re seeking.

3. Meet with your references.

Ideally, Studner says, this should be an in-person meeting, but you can also talk by phone or video chat if that’s impractical. Keep in mind that, both for the meeting and for the reference itself, you’re asking someone to sacrifice their time–the most precious commodity any professional has these days. So use that time wisely, and express your appreciation.

4. Ask the tough questions.

That is, the same tough questions that a prospective customer or employer is likely to ask. An employer might ask why you left the company, what your greatest areas for improvement were, and whether they would hire you again. If you’re applying for a managerial position, they will ask about your leadership skills. They are also likely to ask who else in the company managed you–and then also contact these others and ask for their thoughts as well, even if you did not list them as a reference. Both you and your reference should be prepared for this question.

A prospective customer may ask about anything that went wrong with your product or service, whether they would purchase it again, and may also ask if your reference can refer them to any other of your current or past customers. They may also ask about any price concessions you made. Your reference should be prepared to answer all of these.

5. Keep in touch.

Don’t think of your references as a one-time need. They’re an asset to your career just like your resume or branding materials. So keep them in the loop about jobs you’ve applied for or customers you’ve pitched so they’re not caught by surprise when these companies get in touch. If appropriate, ask the reference to let you know if they’ve been contacted and how the conversation went.

Going forward, nurture the relationship. Look for opportunities to send your reference useful articles or make introductions that might benefit him or her. Remember that references can make or break your career. “Don’t treat references as an afterthought,” Studner says.

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PROPER CLIENT TARGETING

A very good article on client-targeting for copywriters. But it has much wider applications to multiple fields of career and business pursuits.

How to Find Clients Who Will Pay You What You’re Worth

When you first hang out your copywriting shingle, you’re excited. You’re eager to show the world your new skills and start making money. Yet, many beginning copywriters lack a critical skill in these early days.

It’s the skill of “qualifying” your prospects. Developing this skill is crucial for your bank account, your enthusiasm, and your sanity. The faster you realize it, the sooner you’ll be profitable.

Why “People Who Eat” is a Not a Target Audience

A food and wine marketer I know said one of her clients described her target market as “people who eat.” Hmmm … what do you think? While everyone eats, everyone is not interested in taking gourmet-cooking classes. Even if they are interested, they may not have the time or the money. So “everyone who eats,” is not a prospect.

Do you see the difference?

Now, let’s turn to the beginning copywriter who thinks “everyone” is their prospect. Have you ever thought that every business around you needed your marketing help? Better yet, that they wanted your marketing help and were ready and willing to pay for it?

There was a time I believed this. Luckily, I got on board with reality fairly quickly.

But I hear this notion from my fellow freelancers all the time. Complaints from a graphic designer who keeps asking me how to get clients. Questions from a new copywriter who wants to know how to find clients to pay her.

I respond with the same parameters I’ve used to refine my business as I grow…

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