First of all, there is no wrong way to ask for referrals. There are only more effective and less effective ways to ask for referrals. This is not a moral dilemma…this is simply a question for Sales Leaders as to what results in higher ROI for you and your company.
One of the least effective ways to ask your customers referrals is to make a very specific request for action “will you refer me?” in a very general way. For example, “A good referral for me would be anyone you know who owns another like yours? Or, “A great introduction would be somebody you know who owns a company that has a salesforce of at least 5 full time reps? That is a particular sin of my own when I’m being lazy and unprofessional.
Nobody knows Anyone that can introduce you to Someone so why are you asking to meet them?!? Be specific if you consider yourself a professional, let alone expect significant ROI from asking for referrals from clients.
My point being this, if you are going to be very specific in requesting action from your clients why would you use such an open-ended and general question to try and drive measurable results? In addition, why if you are the person being paid to prospect are you making your customer do all the work?
There’s a reason I have created the predictable referral system. It’s time to move past generalities and emotion-based referral strategies and into strategies and systems that a sales manager can trust to put in their monthly/quarterly/annual forecast and not be afraid of getting fired.
Let’s look at much better ways to accomplish our goal of increased referral based sales results.
I advise my clients, and anyone who will listen, that if you’re looking to increase your referral business in a general way, make sure that every single client that you and your company service (on a consistent basis within your company’s CRM at a minimum) is told that you appreciate their business, that you love referrals as an organization and individual salesperson, and that you are always willing to help your clients that want to refer you do so. You live to help make it easy and fun.
The beauty of that strategy is that you don’t slide into being very transactional and consumptive of your client relationship while in front of them. Very few clients will ever have a problem with you letting them know that you appreciate their business, that you love referrals, and that you would be honored if they gave you any. This is a very low risk and very low stress conversation that you should have with every client.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with asking every customer of yours for a referral. My experience shows, however, that that is not the most productive strategy. Once again, you are not wrong to ask all the time. The reality is this, with a significant portion of your customer base…you are missing your biggest quota busting opportunity ever.
The first step that I recommend for clients I work with in my practice is developing a relationship with a service provider that can help your organization install an automated referral sales program that make referrals very easy for your customers to provide you when they aren’t interacting with your sales team.
The service provider that I believe in and trust is called Amplifinity, and I encourage you to research, evaluate and/or ask me any questions about why automating referrals is a massive ROI move in the positive direction for you and your company. In fact, they just released some cutting-edge research on business customer referral programs and all you need to do to grab it is to click here:
They do a great job of providing the referral infrastructure for my clients that I can then drive higher ROI from with coaching, consulting and training on predictable referrals.
That being said, how about we share the best way to ask your customers for referrals when you the salesperson and/or the sales leader are interacting directly with your clients?
Here’s a really key tip for creating predictable referrals: you need to figure out which of your clients will actually refer you on a consistent basis far more than you need to ask every single client to refer you.
First, before you start getting all fired up and jumping on the phone let me ask you one question: Have you done your due diligence?
The basic question you must answer is this: What is your relationship with your customer?
- Why did they hire you and your company?
- What tangible value beyond what you get paid from them to provide do you actually bring to them on a consistent basis?
- Are they a customer of yours because of their relationship with you, or because the product/service that you are representing is the best product out there? (In other words, are they a client because you’re the only Mercedes dealership in town?)
You are a professional salesperson and/or sales leader. At a minimum, if you really want to ramp up your referral based sales program, you must as a part of your customer intake and service process attempt to social connect and engage with your customers. Ideally, LinkedIn and Facebook are going to be the minimum standard here.
I recommend that you follow my good friend Larry Levine, you can find him on Twitter @larry1levine, LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/larrylevine1992/, or his website www.socialsalesacademy.net. He is a stone cold genius at helping position companies and sales reps socially for brand success. Here is a great blog post he wrote about connecting with customers:
This social connection with your customers allows you to do what you are supposed to do as a sales pro: figure out WHO you want to meet and WHO can introduce you (potentially) to them. Social accomplishes this better at scale than just about anything I have ever seen. You still have to work, but, it sure is easier to get to the destination when you can plug it into your GPS!
Now you can prepare to ask for referrals from your customers and be ready to help them help you. If you know who they know…you are halfway home.
To put it into action, here are the basic steps to follow:
- Humbly and specifically ask if your customer is willing to help you grow your business? Revolutionary, huh? Wow, you would actually ask if they want to help you before just diving in with a request that makes you money. If your client says that they aren’t willing to help you, they might just be telling you that they are too busy right now. The best response is to thank them for their honesty and ask if you can ask them again later.
- If they say yes, explain that the best way you grow your business is through referral introductions from clients like them and ask if they would be willing to have a discussion about who might be a good introduction for you? There is very little chance they will not agree to this request, but, if they do you need to ask why. They want to help and you need to figure out what the challenge is (often time or being overwhelmed) now, so you can figure out when to revisit the conversation.
- If they say yes, then you can suggest that one of the easiest ways you have found to help clients refer is to share with them a list of folks that you think they might know and see if they would be willing to pick one to test out first.
- Since you have done your job and made the list (make it short…save the complete list for your CRM…no more than 10 names), you can ask them which of the folks on the list they would be most comfortable introducing to you. One of the objections I hear a lot when I’m training on these topics is that it seems creepy for you to have already identified who you want to meet from a customer’s connections. I get that, I really understand where you’re coming from. You have to work within and despite of your own comfort zone as a sales rep. At the end of the day, you need to disrupt…even if you are referral based…your clients to some degree to get better referral ROI.
Nothing irritates me more than salespeople that think referrals based selling means you don’t have to sell.
I’m disgusted when a salesperson puts all the onus on their customer to figure out exactly who to refer them. Referrals are more than just the best way to grow your business, they are also one of the best ways to treat other human beings and prove that you value them.
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