To prospect efficiently, ask for referrals

Ask for sales referrals. Prospects don’t volunteer them unsolicited. A sales referral is perhaps the most powerful weapon in a sales person’s arsenal. A sales referral happens when an existing customer or prospect gives the name (that is, refers) of another potential buyer, to the sales person. This means that asking for referrals is a form of prospecting. In fact, it is the most efficient and effective way of prospecting. Prospecting is the never-ending quest to get potential buyers for your product or service. And if you are a regular here, you know the two things I say about prospecting. One, that it is the most important activity in selling. And two, if you don’t prospect, you die.

Referral sales examples

So ask for referrals. Prospect.  Sales referrals happen in social interactions, and both analogue and digital sales interactions. I find the most intriguing social interaction that demonstrates the power of referral is by women. Picture this: A woman will stop another, in a busy street on a hectic Monday morning, both on their way to work to complement her on the smooth complexion of her skin. Forget for a moment that neither knows the other from Adam. They will both stop! And the one swooned over by the complement will offer a heartfelt thank you. “What do you use?” the first one will ask. And without hesitation the second one responds complete with where she buys if from.  Remarkable. Anyway, before I digress, Woman 1 is likely to detour to the shop she’s been referred to, to go buy the cosmetic.

Ask for referrals

What does referral mean in business?

Digitally, referrals happen especially on ecommerce sites. Here they don’t ask you for referrals, they give them based on patterns of habits studied. It manifests itself thus:  ‘Those that bought (this item) also bought (this other one). Or, ‘If you liked this book, you’ll like these other ones too.’ Or, ‘Other series/movies like 24/Sentinel’.. Google takes it to a whole new level. Google continually personalizes your search to what their algorithm has ‘learnt’ you like. And that you click on the referrals proves it works.

Why are referrals important in sales?

So back to earth. From the examples shared, do you see how efficient and effective referrals are? Referrals cut to the chase. You don’t waste time warming up or hoping for the best as you would with a stranger. Further, because like attracts like, this method of prospecting is lean and mean. There is nil blubber. And yet, despite all the foregoing benefits, few sales people ask for referrals. Out of fear or ignorance, I don’t know. Just don’t be one of them. And do not limit yourself to existing customers. Even prospects that don’t buy but like you or what you sell can still give you a referral.

How do I get a sales referral?

But you need to ask for referrals. And be specific. Make it easy to get. For instance, “Please refer me to a fellow Engineer in your WhatsApp group (which he had told you about) who you think would also benefit from this course?” And not, “Please refer me to a fellow Engineer (or worse, someone) who you think would also benefit from this course.”


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