Sales referrals are one of the most effective ways to generate new business. Yet, while every salesperson will agree that referrals can work, very few effectively implement a sales referral strategy in their process.
For many sellers, working independently and finding their own leads is more than a virtue – it’s a way of business. These sellers are okay with spending days and weeks prospecting through websites and mailing lists with the hope of catching a wave. I’m here to say working solo and ignoring your network is a missed opportunity.
Referrals can be the foundation of an effective sales career if you develop the skills necessary to do it. In fact, the reason most sales professionals struggle with referrals is that they don’t do it effectively.
Too often do professionals express that they don’t want to ask for a referral because it could annoy their client. Another excuse and a sure-fire way to ruin a potential referral is found in the way many sales professionals approach referrals. Instead of making it clear that they want a referral they simply inject it into a conversation making it easier for the client to forget or brush aside.
Referrals can drive new business and new opportunities. After watching some of the best use referrals to drive success, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
Educate Your Client on Referrals
I’ve seen far too many sales people bring up the idea of referrals after a deal is done. From the very first contact with your prospect you need to make them aware that your business is primarily run on referrals. This sets a framework for a future request and can establish an early sense of trust. Here’s an example of how you bring it up:
“Hi Ms.Smith, while the majority of my work only comes through referrals, I stumbled across your website and thought my product would benefit you.”
Most clients need time to get comfortable with the idea of giving referrals, so bring it up early in the relationship as just a heads up. If you mention sales referrals from time to time in conversations with your clients and prospects; eventually they’ll get understand how important it is for your business and want to help you succeed.
Study Your Clients Network
As we’ve discussed before, business is built on a series of relationships. Relationships with our clients, employers, partners and vendors. Thus, it’s important that you study your clients relationships once you’ve already planted a seed in their mind about the importance of referrals in your business.
Take time to have conversations with your client about their partners, clients, vendors and former employers. Furthermore, review their activity on social media to see who they are connected to and who they still interact with. This information can be used to your advantage as you seek out a referral that is relevant, timely and worth pursuing.
Be Specific in Your Referral Requests
Once you’ve demonstrated the value of your product and your relationship with the client has matured; it’s time to ask. When it comes time for the ask, you have to do it differently than most sales professionals. Typically, the conversation is based on a question like: “Do you know anyone who might able to benefit from my product?” and the clients response is “I’ll give it some thought.”
Be specific. Be prepared. Be diligent.
Instead of asking for a fluffy referral, ask your client to refer you to someone in particular that you know is a part of his or her network. Asking without having someone in mind is a lazy tactic to say we checked “ask for a referral” off our to-do list. When you ask for a specific referral, ensure that this is a person who has come up in a discussion in the past or that you know the client has a lasting relationship with. From there, you will reap the rewards.