One of the most perplexing things in working with lots of sellers and sales teams is the fact that most don't do the one thing that will easily get them connected to more sales opportunities. That one activity is:
Asking for referrals.
There are two ways to do this and it seems like people are comfortable doing one way or the other - few do both, although the sellers who do are incredibly successful. I will throw in a bonus third way as well.
- Talk to existing customers - yep, those who know you, like you, and are pleased with your work should be delighted to refer you to other colleagues of theirs in business. If you are really good, they won't want to refer you to their competition, but everyone in business has peers in other companies, former work colleagues, and people they meet up with at professional events.
- Build a network of 5-12 strategic referral partners who fully understand the work that you have done, have heard customer success stories, and are in and around the types of companies where you do your best work. Example: You sell business intelligence to executives in SMB and mid-sized companies. Find other sellers who work with those same companies in recruiting, training, technology, and leadership. To do this, first come up with a list of services that go on in many of your prospect and client companies that are outsourced. Next find the best and brightest who represent those companies and talk to them. Ideally you could reach out monthly for a formal conversation or you could create a lead sharing group virtually with others in the same space. If you create the group, it makes you the hub and you can ensure that everyone in the group is someone you could refer or get referred by. If you simply join a leads group, there are always some members who are not in your business world and this ultimately can cause a lot of wasted time.
- Bonus idea: Call customers you have not worked with for a while and re-connect. You would be surprised at how many may have an opportunity for you simply because you got in front of them.
The Awkwardness of Asking for a Referral
This is your problem - you don't want to ask, right? Quick ideas:
For existing customers it is easy if you enjoy working with them. Let them know what it is that you like most about working with them. If you sell technology services, for example, let them know that you like that they are such a forward thinking company and that your contact must know others like him who do cutting-edge work that might appreciate the same relationship you and he have. Note that I am not sounding like I'm desperate or down on my luck - I just want to work with more clients like them. The customer is flattered if you are sincere, and even if they don't have a peer to refer you to in their industry, you've given them an honest compliment. You have nothing to lose - and everything to gain by asking!
Working with strategic referral partners it is easier - exchanging and making referrals is the whole reason you are working with each other. Give referrals first and don't focus on waiting to receive one back - just start helping others and you will see others help you back.
You might take a look at Why Salespeople Don't Ask For Referrals.
Will you be asking for referrals this week?
Can you put a system in place to make that happen?
Is it possible to identify one or two strategic referral partners each month through the end of this year?
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2013" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management for 2013". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.
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