Referrals are an effective way of prospecting. They save you time that you would have otherwise spent in search of new prospects. They shorten your sales cycle because you already have a foot in the door.

You were most probably referred to the barber or hairdresser you go to; maybe you stopped patronizing a particular joint because your friend told you they serve counterfeit drinks. It is also possible that you chose the school your child goes to because you were told by a colleague how good it is or you like how the neighbour’s child, who goes there, presents himself. In fact, referral programs for multi-billion-dollar businesses like Tesla, ride in this. But to succeed, you must know how to get quality sales referrals.

The magic of sales referrals

When you really stop to think about it, it is amazing how few of the things we do are our original ideas. Most are by referral—someone told you about them, you overheard someone talking about it, or you read about it somewhere.

How much easier it would be then if we extended this to the sales process? And how much easier and faster we would progress in our profession. Every contact would count, whether they buy or not. But that is only if we know how to get quality sales referrals.

When to seek for referrals

Traditionally, salespeople were encouraged to ask for referrals from satisfied (read, sold) clients. Today though, that does not hold much water.

A prospect may be satisfied by your presentation, or your aggressiveness, or even just how you look, and feel sufficiently philanthropic to help you succeed. They must not have bought from you to qualify to be asked for a referral. But they must be happy with you, of course.

I remember a gentleman who must have been facing retirement then. In the three years I visited his employer to sell, Karani never bought from me. Over the same period, however, he would take it personally, that I did not spend time at his desk to talk about my progress, or just chat.  “You are my son,” he would remind me. “I want you to succeed.  So, listen to this old man, He may say something to help you.”

And boy, did he? In that same span of time, he shared with me dozens of referrals, a whopping 83 per cent of which converted to actual sales. And for the 17 per cent who didn’t, he called, and told them off in my presence. He was happy just to see me succeed.

How to get quality sales referrals

You have to ask for them

But referrals do not come automatically. You have to ask for them, and know how to get quality sales referrals. It must be done in a way that is easy for the prospect or client to respond effortlessly.

I know a barber who when complimented for a job well done, gives the client two business cards with the request, “Please give a card each to the next two people who compliment you on your haircut”.

Compare that to: “Please tell people about my barbershop”. Your guess is as good as mine which of these two would yield a favourable response from the client; and consequently, get you a high-quality sales referral

Why bother with sales referrals

Why referrals? The height of frustration for a salesman is when he does not have prospects. It can be a long, winding, and dark day, which unchecked can stretch to a week followed quickly by a lack of motivation. After all, you have no prospects to sell to.

Referrals are an effective way of prospecting. They save you time that you would have spent in search of new prospects. They shorten your sales cycle because you already have a foot in the door.

Your chances of a close or deal are higher as the prospect is prepared to meet you. People feel more comfortable when a product or service is recommended by someone they know and trust.

Read: Continual prospecting is key to successful selling

How to get high quality referrals

Successful salespeople understand the magic of referrals to the point that this is almost their single source of prospects— their sales funnel/pipeline has a constant flow of prospects most of whom want to see them. These sellers see only bright days ahead.

The salesperson who does not ask for referrals wastes great opportunity and does not capitalize fully on every call.

Ask for the referral. The worst you can be told is no and if that word makes you wince then you are in the wrong profession and chances are you asked for the referral wrongly.

Read: Accept sales rejection; here’s how to overcome it

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