Any business requires some kind of referrals in order to gain more prospects and grow their company.
What are referrals?
So what exactly are referrals?
It’s basically an act of referring someone or something for consultation, review, or further action.
Hence, Referrals are gold.
Referrals can be of 2 types.
First, You get a referral from a trusted resource and reference them in your initial e-mail or phone call. There is nothing more powerful than a personal referral.
Second type is when someone refers you. Hence, the trust your prospect has for the referrer transfers to you. This gives you a huge advantage as buyers will be more open to speaking with you.
The obvious place to ask for referrals is your network. A not-so-obvious place is in your prospecting calls themselves. When reaching out to an organization for the first time, it’s up to you to navigate the hallways and find the buyers and decision makers within the organization.
How to ask for Referrals in Sales ?
With referred leads, it’s easier to set appointments and have productive business discussions because a level of trust is already established.
So here are few tips on how to get that necessary referral.
1) Get to the right partners, existing customers and new customers
- Right Partners – Be intentional about this. Find other vendors who share mutual prospect profiles and have the same “give first” attitude as we mentioned previously.
After all, one great partner is better than 5 mediocre partners.
- Existing Customers – Your own customers are the easiest and friendliest referral source. In fact, if you treat them right, they may well go out and do some selling for you! Don’t wait for your customers to do all the work for you – pick up the phone and ask for the referral, or send them a referral request letter. It’s a good idea anyway to check in with your customers a few weeks or months after the sale.
- New Customers – Just after you’ve closed a sale with someone is the best time to get referrals from them, because they’re excited about their new purchase. Some salespeople are nervous about asking for referrals at this point because they just want to get out of there in case the prospect changes their mind! Well, don’t worry about this. Hit them up now, while their energy is at its peak!
Use LinkedIn to find connections of the people you deal with, then ask them specifically: “I see you’re connected with ABC, how well do you know her? Would you be willing to make an introduction?” or “I noticed you’re a member of the CFO executive round-table, who else in that group should I get to know?” or “Who else do you know who can benefit from this product, as you have?”
2) Just ask
Sometimes, all you have to do is take the first step and ask.
Don’t make it sound so official & formal. Just ask people for recommendations of others who fit your ideal buyer profile. For example, “Hey John, we’ve got a killer new feature coming out that does X & Y. Which other marketing execs do you think would find this interesting?”
Many sales reps make the huge mistake of asking for a referral right after they’ve closed the deal. That’s not ideal, because you’ve just asked the customer to take a risk by buying from you. Why would the customer want to take another risk and refer a colleague to you? So, rather than asking for the referral outright, ask for the “right to ask.”
When the customer says “yes“, say something like: “Wonderful! Thanks for agreeing to become our customer. I have one request. I want you to think of some friends and colleagues who you think should be doing business with us – providing we are as incredible as I’ve been claiming we are. Once I proven to you, beyond all doubt, that we can deliver and delight you, I’m going ask you to contact those people to suggest they meet with me. Does that sound fair?”
3) Give before you get
Be the referral giver before being a referral taker. It’s not just karma, it’s reality. Referral givers are more enjoyable to associate with and leave the impression of the referral culture on those whom they come in contact with. Plus it makes life more enjoyable when you’re helping others.
This one is so simple many sales rep don’t use it. You’re in sales, so you know lots of people, right? If you use those connections to bring in some extra business for a prospect, you’ve earned the right – tit for tat – to ask for a referral.
The great thing about this idea is that it really does put you into the “win-win” scenario. Because more money coming into your customer, would mean that they’ll have more money to spend.
4) Know your customer profile
We have explained in one of our previous articles about the importance of a customer profile.
(click here for details.)
Do you sell to CFO’s of publicly traded companies? VP’s of Sales for software companies? You’ll need to know precisely who you are looking for in order to not waste effort in referral generation.
There are different reasons why a company should create an ideal customer profile. But the main reason is so that you can focus your sales and marketing efforts on generating high-quality sales leads.
Trying to sell products and services without understanding your ideal customers is like driving with your eyes closed. So, it basically helps you understand what the ideal customer is looking for, what matters to them most and how best to speak to them.
5) The Right Time
Always be on the lookout for the best times to ask for a referral.
Did you just get praised via an email? Did somebody just write an awesome tweet or LinkedIn update about your service. If so, then that’s a perfect time to ask them for an introduction to somebody who fits your customer profile.
The time that you’re asking for referrals is also an excellent time to ask a client for a testimonial, a short written endorsement of your company and/or your work that you can use on your website if you have one and in your other marketing materials such as brochures. (Don’t expect anyone to write a testimonial for you on the spot; either leave them a printed card or form that they can use or ask them to email it to you.)
6) Have your script but not for a Cold Call
Find yourself at a networking event or trade-show and you don’t know where to take the conversation?
Always have a go to line for this, as in “We’ve had a lot of success helping software companies improve their sales cycles by providing more prospect information. Who do you know who works on the revenue side of a software company?”
Have specific scripts for clients, partners, vendors, etc. to make the process of asking for referrals easier. Do not consider it as a another one of those cold calls because it’s not!
You should enter into a conversation with a referral with a much friendlier tone, playing up the relationship you have with the referrer. Act like you’re already in their inner circle because in a way, you already are.
7) Face-to-Face but not just Any Face
Normally, you’d ask customers “Who do you know?” and they’d give some names. The problem with that phrasing was that people would occasionally offer contacts they didn’t have a good relationship with.
So change your question to “Who do you like?” to ensure I’m getting referred to a person my customer has a strong relationship with. I can then benefit from the respect the referral has for my customer.
Also, Referrals should always be asked for face-to-face. It’s not only more respectful of your clients but more successful. People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. (It is acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you work under conditions where face-to-face meetings are not usual or very difficult.)
8) Pitch the Prospects You Couldn’t Close
If you pitch a prospect and they turn you down, don’t just bolt out the door. Get a referral or two, and you’ll have changed a loss into a win.
You’re probably shaking your head and thinking, “That’s crazy-talk. Why would a person who wouldn’t even buy from me give me referrals?”
Well, a lot of sales fall through not because the prospect hates you or your product, but because they just aren’t a good fit. In that case, it’s the perfect opportunity to find out if they know someone who is a good fit. Don’t assume the prospect hates you and your product – after all, you have nothing to lose by asking!
Referral sales can be your #1 source of new hot leads and turn into a massive growth engine for your B2B startup if you do it right.
This is just a start. Let these suggestions jump-start your own idea generation. Create a sales referral process that works for your ideal clients and your networks.