Asking for Referrals

Referrals are an excellent source of prospects and can greatly increase sales, but most salespeople don’t deserve to get them because they do very little or nothing to earn them. Some salespeople simply do their job — no more, no less — and then expect the customer to be eager to provide them with the names of hot prospects.

If you’re going fishing for referrals from your existing customers, you’d better bait your hook with exceptional or value-added service.

Use the Law of Reciprocity which states the more you give someone, the more he or she wants to reciprocate. The best way for a satisfied customer to reciprocate is to give you referrals. So the first step in earning referrals is to make sure you provide service that is above and beyond your cus­tomer’s expectations.

Help your customers exercise the Law of Reciprocity by asking them to reciprocate. That means asking for referrals. The reason that 95 percent of salespeople don’t ask for referrals is the same reason they don’t ask for the order. They’re afraid of rejection, afraid of getting a “no.” You can minimize the chances of getting a “no” by asking at the right time. Two right times are after your customer has acknowledged that you have been going out of your way to be of value to them, and after you have just provided another above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty service to your customer.

Just like with fishing, you have to be patient and careful you don’t jiggle the hook too soon. No need to be pushy. Don’t expect the names right then. You might say to Bill, “If any names pop into your mind over the next few days, would you jot them down and I’ll give you a call next week. I’d really appreciate it.” Now when you call back, all you have to ask is, “Did any names pop into mind?” If you’ve earned the referrals, you’ll get them.

Asking for Referrals 

The Three Step Process for asking for referrals is:

1. Treat the asking with reverence.  Give it the importance it deserves.

2. Ask for their help.  If you’ve earned a referral, they’ll be happy to help.

3. Limit the field of view. The more they’re focused, the better their vision.

Don’t be greedy. Ask for two names, not ten. Why? Because, if every person to whom you gave exceptional service gave you the names of two people to whom you also gave exceptional service, by the time you repeated the process 12 times, you’d have over 4,000 customers. Remember the TV commercial for shampoo where two people told two people who told two people, etc. Properly executed, this referral plan can give you more prospects than you can reasonably handle.

Where do you start? Select two, five, ten, or however many customers you want to cultivate. Decide on what you can do to stand out over other salespeople in your field and then put your exceptional service program into action. When your customers recognize that you are truly better than the others, exercise the Law of Reciprocity by asking for two referrals.

People are more likely to give you referrals if they know what you are looking for in a prospect. Unfortunately, most salespeople don’t really know what their ideal prospect looks like so they end up asking the mundane question, “Do you know anyone else who might be interested in…”, to which the other person too often answers, “No, but I’ll keep it in mind.” Yeah, sure. They’ll keep it in mind until you’re out of sight!

If you don’t know what your ideal prospect looks like, how can you expect others to know who they can give as a referral. You must be able to paint them a clear picture of who you can help most so they can easily visualize the scenario.

Post referral follow-up

Make sure you provide a follow up report back to the person who gave you the referral and say thank you whether a sale is made or not.

Your objective is to get two good referrals from each of your key customers. Service these new prospects the way you serviced your customers and you’ll build a solid business on nothing but referrals. 

For more information on training and coaching to improve sales skills, please refer to The Right Skills.

Salesforce Training & Consulting is a professional sales training firm and registered Consulting Partner based in Toronto, with offices in Boston and Chicago, providing sales coaching, sales management consulting, salesforce implementation, sales training and sales personnel assessments.