Stop Giving (and Getting) Referrals that SUCK!


Guest Post by:
Mac Cassity
Mac The Knife Marketing

[Mac is a personal friend of mine from…let’s just say WAY back!  When we re-CONNECTed and I learned what he was up to these days, it was clear to me: He understands the Power of Connection! Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below after you read Mac’s post!

I know, we’ve all heard it before…referrals are the BEST way to get high quality, easily converting business, right? That is, unless the referrals you are getting absolutely suck! The fact is, many (if not most) business people don’t even understand exactly what a true referral is. This results in quite a bit of wasted time and effort and not NEARLY as much actual business being transacted. A high quality referral IS like gold, but, do you even know what a high quality referral is?

My definition is simple: A high quality referral is when you introduce someone whose product or service you have faith in to someone you think could use that product or service. BAM, that’s it. Notice the word introduce is highlighted. That introduction is the secret to making referrals work. Unfortunately, all too often, we encounter a scenario like the one below:

“Hey Mac, I have a great referral for you!”

“Cool, lay it on me!”

“Well, I was driving in to work today, I saw a billboard for a new business opening up on main street, they could probably use your marketing services…you should call them!”

“Uh…yeah…sure…thanks.” (SUCK!)

The scenario above represents MANY encounters I have had in so called “referral” groups that I belonged to. Listen folks, you might mean well, but this info does NOT equal a referral. Referrals must be handed off. Another one that kills me is the “Just call him and tell him I told you to call.” Again, I say…SUCK! Most of us have higher opinions of ourselves than others and just because you think someone loves you doesn’t mean they want you telling others to call them and ask for business! Not cool. These phone calls are often little better than cold calls and in my opinion are not worth my time. You might think this sounds a bit harsh, but that’s because I expect what I give, and here’s how I give referrals:

  1. 1.      I personally introduce two individuals at a networking event and tell them why I think they should do business together.
  2. 2.      I arrange a 3-way phone call and do the same as the above (when a face to face meeting is not possible)

And lastly (but usually the most common due to obvious limitations)

  1. 3.      I email the two parties and do a “virtual introduction” thereby connecting all 3 of us as part of the referral. This one works great, is easy and quick to do, and VERY effective.

So there you have it. THAT is how you give a referral that doesn’t suck. Oh, and as for those people who give you referrals that do? Simply say to them,

“Hey, let me ask you a quick question…if I know someone that I think would be a good client for you, do you mind if I introduce them to you personally?” (they will always answer with a resounding “ABSOLUTELY!”) Once they do, just smile and ask,

“Well…do you mind doing the same for me?”

They will get the point and you will have helped train one more business professional to start giving referrals that don’t SU…you get the idea.


Mac Cassity aka MAC THE KNIFE runs a successful content creation business,  Mac the Knife Articles  and an online/offline marketing business, Mac the Knife Marketing. He has developed an extensive client base that includes major automobile manufacturers, universities, Well known speakers/authors, and more than a few “mom and pop” shops. Mac’s blog,, helps burgeoning offline marketers land and profit from brick and mortar businesses. Mac is offering his successful eBook TURNING CONVERSATIONS TO CLIENTS right now for just $1. CLICK HERE to grab a copy for yourself!


The Ultimate Client Connection!

Cooksey (along with his wife Krissy) with members of the Clock Spring LP North American sales team at the 2011 PPIM Conference in Houston, TX

What is the best statement you could hear from a client?  Maybe it is a sincere “thank you”, or “you made a real impact with us”, or maybe just it’s the melodic sound of a referral.  What about “we would like to have you join us as part of our team…full time”?

I’m proud to announce that beginning tomorrow, I am joining the team of one of my prior clients as the Director of Marketing at Clock Spring L.P. To that I say, “What a compliment!”

For nearly the past three years, I have been gathering research about what works, what doesn’t, and how to fix organizational leadership.  It is a project that has taken me, literally, around the world and provided me with unprescedented access to all levels of leaders within organizations large, small, public, private, for-profit, not-for-profit, successful and struggling.  During those hundreds of encounters, I have often reminded workshop participants that significant change in their organizations begins with intentional, consisitent energy pushing in a new direction.  I am extremely excited to be distilling this research into action as part of a team already achieving incredible results!

While several of this blogs followers have already heard about the move and inquired about the future of Cooksey Connects, let me assure you- the mission will continue.  Over the coming months, you may notice a small tweak in the direction of this site and its message, yet the core message of CONNECTion will remain strong.  The guest post series has proven extremely popular and I hope you will continue to enjoy the Monday articles for the next several weeks.  I have reached out to a number of people across North America, and there are some GREAT articles in the queue.  (In case you missed the first two, be sure to check out the posts from Jerry Sevier and Kathy Piersall and leave your comments for the authors!)

For the next month, I will be continuing to wrap up a few previous committments to another client, so if you see me coming to your town, I’d love to meet up with you while I’m there!  Let me hear from you!


Why Customers are More Than Just Sales- A Lesson Learned


Jerry Sevier

Guest Post by:

Jerry D. Sevier, Founder
ExamShout Mobile Certification Study Solutions
A division of Gensev, Inc.

Customers are more than just a figure in your sales log. Many companies have learned that they are an incredible resource for information. They can tell you when you aren’t doing the right thing or validate you are, in fact, moving in the right direction. However, I have recently discovered they can do even more. The simple act of reaching out to your customer base to honestly CONNECT can have profound results.

Before I get too involved, I’d like to take a moment and thank Scott Cooksey for the opportunity to make this guest appearance on CookseyConnects. I have known Scott for over fifteen years as he and I worked together in what was my first professional job in the Information Technology (IT) industry. Today, I own a successful business that sells mobile applications for devices like Android and iPhone.  [No “thanks” necessary, Jerry!  You are certainly WELCOME and I offer you many congratulations on your continued success! – Scott]

Since moving away from that small Oklahoma town where we first met, we’ve each been busy learning our life-lessons and establishing our careers. I had, for many years, a very successful consulting career providing software development services to many Fortune 500 companies all over the country. To put it simply, companies paid me a lot of money for what was, in essence, my opinion on strategy, direction and design on things like e-commerce and enterprise computer systems.

About two years ago, my wife asked me a pretty innocent question: “If you can help these companies make millions of dollars, why can’t you do that for yourself?” Little did we know, this simple question would change our lives forever. Since then, we have formulated a small consulting company that specializes in Mobile/Smart Phone applications. I figured, with all of my experience, ability to program, and such a thorough understanding of the industry, how could I fail, right?

We did everything by the book. We created the business plan, I researched our target market, I studied my competition and formulated a design for our software. I added many features that our competitors had “overlooked”. Because of this, what should have been a three month development cycle was dramatically extended. We launch almost a year later than expected.

Upon the software release, sales were very disappointing. Just like I learned as a consultant, I went back into business mode, modified our software design, and released a much-improved update. Still, sales were flat. I was frustrated and we were looking at losing everything we had invested in a venture that was clearly heading towards failure.

Out of desperation, I decided to ask my customers directly for their input. Instead of drafting some fancy e-mail campaign, I printed off a customer list and spent an entire week doing nothing but sending a personalized email to each and every one of the people who had purchased our program. As one then another responded, I’d immediately write them back. Before I knew it, I had an open dialog with dozens of our customers. I made responding to them my number one priority. Many of them were shocked that I would respond within minutes even at 2:00 am.

All while I was working with the customers, I was formulating how we could revamp our marketing strategy. We could do this… we could do that. Here’s how we could change our software. My mind was busy putting together the strategy. Then, something remarkable happened.

Sales began to explode! We were seeing sales at a rate we had never imagined.

But wait! We hadn’t done anything yet! How were sales skyrocketing before we’d made any real changes?

I am ashamed to say, it took me a bit to realize what had happened. It turns out, when I reached out and connected with my customers, I had unknowingly provided them with a feature that none of my competition had… a two-way relationship. Their input mattered, I did my best to change what I could and explain what I couldn’t. In exchange, they began to tell their friends about us, and a process was born that spread like wild-fire.

Customers are not just those statistics that you read on the daily sales log. They are real, hard working people like you and me. If you can reach out, develop a real conversation, you can empower them. And, more often than not, that new power will be used to help you take your business to the next level.

To this day, I attempt to send a custom, personalized letter to each and every one of my customers. While this is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with due to our new found success, it is a process I will never stop.

The Challenge

As a final note to each of you reading this: If you work in a service oriented industry, I challenge you to reach out to some of your customers and/or clients today and honestly ask them for their input, suggestions, and comments. I promise, the harder you work to respond to them, the more success you will find.

Thank you and happy connecting!

Visit Jerry’s Company on the Web at:
Follow @examshout on Twitter


How Do Leaders Connect?


Over the past few years, I have been conducting an experiment.  In an effort to really understand why some people seem to be “natural leaders” and some “just do not have what it takes to lead”, I put myself on the road to figure out what it means to connect as a leader.

The Challenge

While most people would have been tempted to simply interview a number of trainers, speakers, and other business leadership gurus for a consensus vote, that just is not my style.  I opted, instead, to throw myself into the fire.

Since June of 2009, I have led well over 200 days of training, literally, around the globe.  This experiment has taken me from Lakeland, Florida to the Pacific Northwest; Toronto, Canada to the islands of the Caribbean Sea; and, my adopted hometown of Houston, Texas to a tour of cities across the great continent (and country) of Australia.

During that time, I have led thousands of people to a better understanding of topics sadly lumped into a category called “soft skills”.  Soft skills are what makes a leader a leader.  In essence, there is nothing truly “soft” about soft skills.  In fact, trying to lead teams without an understanding of soft skills is…well…in a word; HARD!

Today, I proudly announce, I have found the Holy Grail of Leadership, identified the Common Denominator of Successful People, and boiled it all down to a single act you must commit your entire life to mastering, if you want to achieve true success at every level.  That word is “CONNECT”.

The Breakdown:

con·nect [kuh-nekt] verb (used with object)
1. to join, link, or fasten together; unite or bind
2. to establish communication between; put in communication
3. to have as an accompanying or associated feature
4. to cause to be associated, as in a personal or business relationship: to connect oneself with a group of like-minded persons;
5. to associate mentally or emotionally

Not a bad definition.  And while definition #4 above seems closest to what I found to be true, here is the culmination of my extensive research on leadership, and what it takes to be successful:

Creative Commons photo from FlickrC reate

O pportunities for a

N ew

N ormal of

E nergized

C ollaborative

T hinking

Be honest with yourself.  Take a moment and identify someone who has, at some point, taken a direct interest in your professional development.  Perhaps this person has  served as a mentor for you (formally or informally). They may be a person who, if they asked you to attempt to achieve almost any goal, you would gladly give it a shot.  How did they CONNECT with you to earn your loyalty and respect?

Not since a playground game of “Follow the Leader”, have you been able to dictate that people to follow you.  Stop acting like it is an entitlement you have “earned” by “paying your dues” (You should hear what my colleague Karen McCullough can teach you about getting over THAT ” old way of thinking”-seriously, hire her to speak for your group and mention this blog posting- THAT would be an example of CONNECTion!).

The Challenge:

Tomorrow Today I challenge you to:

  1. Call a meeting with your entire team (or work group, if you haven’t created a real “team” yet)
  2. Ask each of them to pull out a piece of paper and list (anonymously) the top three aspects THEY admire in a leader
  3. Collect the responses and end the meeting.
  4. Take the answers into a room by yourself, list them on a piece of paper.
  5. Try to find ANY attribute they have listed that could not be somehow improved, if you were to work hard and create opportunities to set a “new normal” of energetic, creative thinking among the group you aspire to lead.

If you change your ways FIRST, those around you will reward you with loyalty, respect, and more measurable (and profitable) results than you could EVER DEMAND them to achieve. What are you waiting for? CONNECT!


How to Build and Profit from Your Connections

It's not who you know, it's who knows you.
How to be a Connector

Simply stated, I get a kick out of helping people connect their potential with deliberate action that allows them to enjoy success at a level they previously thought impossible. The good news is that it is relatively easy…if you develop the habit of making connections about other people, instead of you.

Without a doubt, social media has changed the way people connect. Or has it? Certainly, technologies like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have shifted the definitions of a “friend”, “follower”, or “connection” to meanings significantly different than we once thought of them. And while this technology’s popularity makes it easier than ever to “stay in touch” even with the fringes of our networks, it is no substitute for a true, off-line connection.

Networking is a word which often brings back memories of hundreds of shallow, self-promoting people swarming around at some random event sponsored by your local chamber of commerce.  You probably have someone specific in your mind right now who claims to be a great networker….a claim backed up by the huge stack of recently collected business cards on their desk. Only, if you look a little deeper, it doesn’t take long to realize those “connections” aren’t really connections at all. In fact, that self-proclaimed networker is nothing but a business card collector – evidenced by the number of cards with their name on them, which they have given you over the years -each with a different company logo on it. (Get my drift?)

In recent weeks, I have given closer inspection to just which of the habits I have observed of people I admire as great connectors (as described in Malcom Gladwell’s instant classic, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference). The rules listed below will provide a roadmap for you in becoming a sought after person in the network of others.  Each demonstrates just how simply you can integrate subtle changes into your own routine to achieve the status of Connector:

  1. It can never be about you. – I once went to an interview for a job I knew I did not really want, just to get an offer I could turn down.  Shortly after passing the “screener’s interview” at the door, I was asked to stay and visit with the insurance agency’s owner.  Sure enough, he offered me the job.  I immediately turned him down – then sat in his office for nearly an hour listening to him telling me how wonderful and successful he was.  Presuming for a minute he was half as successful as his puffed up autobiographical interview suggested, I knew my instincts were correct.  Working for him would never be about the development of my own career. It would only be about him.  Successful, perhaps.  Did I ever follow up?  Let’s just say the materials he gave me on the way out the door never made it out of his office building.
  2. Connections should be authentic. I enjoy a great spy/action novel. In between the great number of business and success oriented books I read each year, I find it relaxing to just get lost in a great story once in a while.  When I learned a friend of mine had written a novel set in my former hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I downloaded the free sample from his website and sent him a note.  Prior to the release of his book, he kindly forwarded me the final version of the first two chapters.  On the day it was available for purchase from Amazon, I immediately downloaded the book to my Kindle….and posted everywhere I could online how great it was a friend of mine had just released his first in a series of novels.  And let me tell you, the book is a thriller! [Here is a link to the book: The Perfect Candidate. If you download it, please come back to this blog post and let me know what you thought of it!] A few days later, I asked him to preview a new video project of mine ahead of it’s release, and he gladly responded.  Offering his feedback, he then (without my asking) mentioned he would forward the link to a few of his own contacts whose organizations often hired speakers.  That’s a referral I didn’t even have to ask for!
  3. Focus on giving. – A close personal friend of mine once said, “Don’t just be a face on a roster.” What great advice.  I have learned time and again that connecting people with their best interests at heart will gain you more than trying to shoehorn yourself into being the right solution when you (or the products or services you offer) are simply not a good fit. People remember and the return is much greater in the long-run when you keep this principle in mind.
  4. If at first you don’t connect, try again. – In a soon to be released audio program, I share more of the details about this idea.  Keep an eye out, because in this program you will hear real cases to teach you how to can turn a missed sales opportunity into your largest client.  Some of my best connections have developed from people I just didn’t “click” with at first.  If your approach didn’t connect with them, it is up to you to show the value of what you can bring to their network. (See Rule #1)
  5. Always maintain your integrity. It is flattering to be asked to help someone out.  I’m sure that your reputation (out of a cast of thousands) has brought forth many efforts to help an obscure Nigerian prince ex-patriate some funds from his country, if only you would email this thoughtful and promising stranger all of your financial details so they can deposit the promised millions into your account for “your trouble”, right?  Listen.  I once had a client walk out of my office, with a smile on his face, having lost nearly 95% of the value of his account, carrying only a new coffee mug.  My largest single commission as a financial adviser was a one-time investment with a gross commission of $17,000!  What do both of those stories have to do with integrity?  In both cases, the clients had acted foolishly and completely against my advice.  That’s right.  I advised them against their respective investments, yet by standing firm on my position (instead of slobbering over the commissions thus making a complete fool of myself), I earned their trust and respect.  And I won their business (and their commission income) while still finding myself able to sleep at night because I had simply told them the truth.

These five rules are the absolute keys to building solid connections with those to whom you do business.  Avoid them at your own peril! The most successful people I have ever studied all possessed the ability think past the short-term, and enjoyed success for the long-term.  Which path will you take?


Your People are Disconnected and Your Customer Service Stinks


Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a staff development training day at a major university’s school of dentistry.  There were approximately 60 people in attendance, most of whom worked in some type of support role either at the school, within a private dental practice, or both.

Realizing this training was being held on both the Friday before the U.S. Memorial Day Holiday and on a particularly amazing day (weather wise), I knew I needed to reel them in quick.  I decided to open with an exercise to get them talking to one another and moving around the room (always a great idea first thing in the morning).  I posted with a few questions for them to consider before moving about the room, asking each participant to write down the first answers to each that came to their mind.  The reply immediately voiced from nearly half the people in the room, however, spoke volumes to me when I heard a collective, “But, nobody told us to bring a pen!”

Customer Service Feedback Form
How Does YOUR Service Rank?

Pause for a few seconds and think– In that moment, had you been leading the seminar, what would you have done?

What happened next, however, was both a bit of a relief, and an troubling explanation.  Relief in that the local leader had indeed brought along enough ball point pens to pass around for the unprepared.  Explanation in how that single action of providing the pens made me question what other bad habits among this team were being enabled to continue every single day- dismissed as “oh, they’re just like that” and “it’s easier to just hold their hands”.

Here’s the real kicker.  This was about the 5th or 6th day of training this group had received during the entire academic year. “What?”, I thought.  “You didn’t bring a pen to a training class?”

More times than you might believe over the past couple of years, I have witnessed seminar participants sign in at registration,  collect their workbook (with certificate of completion already stashed on the last page), and ask for directions to the restroom….never to be seen again.  And, to be candid, I’m not sure it is entirely their fault.  They simply do not feel empowered to make a difference or influence change back at work and must be thinking, “Why bother?” Often, these are the same employees who have the best opportunities to make it right with your most important customers, clients, and vendors….and simply don’t even try.

Here are a few quick ideas for you, the mighty leader of your team (no, it isn’t a job title, it’s an attitude), to make sure the people around you are engaged, plugged in, and turned on at work:

  1. Hold those around you accountable for their actions. Don’t just enable them by running to get ball point pens they clearly should have brought to the training session. If there are no consequences for unacceptable or unprofessional behavior, why should you expect them to change for the better?
  2. Assign a book report. When you send someone from your team to a training seminar or conference, challenge them to come up with a brief presentation on 3-5 key points they learned and feel others would benefit from hearing about.  If you were the one sent to the class, offer to share some ideas to your group in a staff meeting. Taking initiative says, “I’m working for the job I want….not the one I have.”
  3. Listen. If your team is disengaged and discouraged, you should know it.  If not by what they say, listen to how they say it. More importantly, listen to what they don’t say.  If everyone around you has stopped trying to solve problems and only complain about them, it is up to you to draw them into helping solve the issues.  If you ignore the obvious problems, you are in fact condoning them to continue.

Accountability is the name of the game. Build a solid team, and you’ll see the results with success at every level!



Why Should THEY Buy When It’s All About YOU?


Consistently, when people ask me “how can I get people to see me as a leader?”, I ask them a simple question. “Why should they?”  If the answer suggests it has something to do with their own benefit, suggest they consider their teammates’ points of view.

If you are like most leaders, undoubtedly you are in a continuous mode of learning.  And, if you are on the path to achieving the success you deserve, I certainly hope you are also unafraid of failure.  Yes, that’s what I said: UNAFRAID OF FAILURE!

In pursuit of his efforts to convert electricity into light, Thomas Edison has been quoted as saying “I never failed. I only found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” Dare I suggest it was attitude, not necessarily know-how that created the lightbulb.

Take a look at how you are approaching growth of your own business, climbing the ladder of success, or giving to people around you.  If it’s all for your own benefit (e.g. a sale, self-promotion, doing it “your way”, or the like), you are most likely walking past a dollar to pick up a dime.

This week’s challenge is to think about how you can help eliminate “pain” or take away other people’s problems with solutions you are able to provide.  When you stop selling a product, you begin providing solutions.  People PAY for solutions because they are too lazy or lack the expertise to solve the issue themselves.

Repeat after me, “The solutions I can provide my clients/customers are more valuable than the products I sell.”

Share how you are beginning to see things differently below.


Success Often Begins at Ground Zero


Last week, I left you with a challenge. Did you accept it?  Why or why not?

A few years ago, I accepted a challenging assignment as an investment representative inside a community bank…only I didn’t realize how difficult a task it was going to be when I showed up for work that first day.

I was the fifth representative in as many years to occupy that desk.  Ironically, management saw the office as a “five year old business” when it fact, it was only a collection of pieces of “five, one-year businesses”.  Collectively, there was $2.9 million in assets and from looking at the client files, it was impossible to tell which accounts were still open, which were long ago closed, or how any decisions had been made for each client.  My charge was to turn it around.

My first day was just before Independence Day 2001.  The financial markets were still uncertain following the investment bubble which had popped only 15 months earlier, clients were skittish, and to make it worse, the world as we knew it (financial or otherwise) completely introduced a “new normal” that fateful day in September—only 90 days into my new assignment.

It would have been easy to throw my hands in the air, declaring the task impossible, and not many people would have blamed me.  Not having many other options of where I might take my talents (financial firms were in “protection mode”), I decided to dig in and make it work.

Three years later, almost to the day, the book of business I’d inherited was now $12.5 million in asssets and produced a more predictable and stable annual revenue than ever before.  The markets had been against me.  For 18 months, my co-workers didn’t believe I’d actually stay (no other representative ever had). Management refused to offer more support or strategic direction than to tell me simply to “just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t worry about the rest of the department”.   The success (and the rocky road I traveled to find it) can almost completely be attributed to my own deliberate focus on relationships with clients and co-workers.

In the midst of significant roadblocks, true leaders will emerge and success will shine, if they continue to focus on the relationships with everyone around them.

Until the next blog posting, I challenge you this week to complete this phrase OUT LOUD at least once per day:

“Today, I will focus on customer / client/ co-worker relationships by __________________________”.

Be deliberate.  Be honest.  Let others hear about what you notice in the comments below.


Leader is NOT a Job Title


In just the past twelve months, I have enjoyed the opportunity to facilitate conversations with leaders all across North America and the Caribbean.  These people represented publicly traded & privately held companies; for profit & not-for-profit ventures; volunteer & paid roles; governments & government agencies; some with many years of experience & others who were green in their positions.

No matter how one might describe their positions and organizations there are, in my observation, two areas that all leaders seem to struggle with at one time or another.  I kept hearing stories, reasons, justifications and just plain ‘ol excuses from “leaders” as to why they just couldn’t connect with their “subjects”….and that’s when it hit me.  The problem, about 89.9% of the time, is rooted firmly in issues of communication and business relationships.

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to shed some light on how you can avoid the pitfalls holding back so many other people, so you can enjoy the success you have earned and should be sharing with those around you.

I challenge you to copy down the following idea and review it each day for a week.

“Leadership is not a title, it’s a show of respect which occurs only when people choose to follow .”


A funny thing happened on the way to Dumas, TX…


After a bit of a hiatus, I traveled this week to Dumas High School in Dumas, TX to deliver a couple of presentations to the Junior and Senior classes.  I’ve been a presenter for’s Making It Count Programs for about three years, a relationship I’ve had much fun with!  We had a great time, and the students there were fantastic!  ( CLICK HERE to link to the video montage of the presentation created by the folks at the local online paper, High Plains Observer-Dumas.)

Watching the video, I found myself smiling, laughing, and re-enjoying the time I spent there…at work!

Sure, when I headed to the airport the day before, it was just like one of those days when you aren’t looking forward to the commute.  Once in the air, though, I opened up the blank, leather-bound journal my wife gave me not two weeks ago on our wedding day.  With the gift, she’d included a note of instruction that I was to use that journal to capture the plans and dreams in my head, and begin putting them into action. So I started writing…

As the sun set over the horizon (it’s a beautiful sight to watch through the window of a plane at 31,000 ft), I was settled in with my iPod, pen in hand, and before I knew it, I’d written about 6 pages of ideas which have become the early draft of my business plan for the coming year.

The next time find yourself dreading your commute, turn up an old album you haven’t heard in a while, settle in for the ride, and open up your mind to ask, “How can I make today count?”.