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Getting Referrals

 

Disciplines > Sales > Sales articles > Getting Referrals

When and why it works | Avoiding the referral trap | Building it in | Be creative | See also

 

One of the most difficult parts of selling is prospecting, or getting new customers. By far the most powerful thing you can have when approaching new people is a referral from their colleagues, friends or others they respect.

The big question that comes before using referrals is getting the referrals in the first place.

When and why it works

Getting referrals can be gained any time: after you are turned away, after closing the deal, after great service or just any time!

After refusal

After you have been turned away or not made the sale is a great time to ask for a referral. But why should a person give you a referral when they could easily just blow you off? The basic answer is that it gives them an opportunity for absolution from the sin of saying no.

There is a basic social moral that says 'help others', which makes people want to be nice. We generally dislike refusing and turning away other people, so when we say no, we are more likely to agree to give a referral to the sales person.

The basic exchange is thus they give you referrals in exchange for your forgiveness for them not being able to spend more time with you or buy your products and services.

After the close

After people have bought from you, they are feeling the post-close warmth and are thus more ready to help you. This also helps them justify to themselves why they signed the deal ('It's such a great bargain, I should let others into the secret').

If you have made concessions during the negotiation, then they may feel further obliged to offer you a referral in compensation.

After great service

If you sell someone a great product or give them great service, particularly if you have just put yourself 'above and beyond' expectations, to help them, then they will be ready to help you in return by giving you a good referral.

Any other time

People will give you referrals when you meet in the bar, on the bus or any time you can speak with them. You are paying them attention, helping them feel good. In return, they may give you a great referral.

Avoiding the referral traps

There are several traps in seeking referrals that can lead to you being given the wrong person or no person at all.

Asking incorrectly may dissuade the other person from giving you names of other people. If they are not interested in you or what you have to sell, then they may well be unwilling to foist you on their friends. Do remember that by giving a referral, they are putting their necks on the line. If you annoy the referred person, then that person will likely complain to the referrer.

Worse than giving you no referrals is fobbing you off with a worthless referral, thus wasting your time further.

The 'anyone' trap

Asking 'Is there anyone else...' is first a closed question to which it is easy to say 'no'. Also when you ask 'anyone' it does not really help the other person to think about specific people you can call.

Always ask for a specific 'who', not a general and vague 'anyone' or 'someone'.

The 'wants product' trap

Asking for who 'may want the product' may result in the other person trying to think of somebody who has been asking for a product or service like yours. And of course there will be very few or none of these.

The trick to get around this is to ask for who has the type of problems that your product or service resolves. The other person is much more likely to know this.

Who do you know who is having product reliability problems?

Can you tell me who here is having issues computer support issues?

Building it in

The key to real success in referrals is to build requesting referrals right into your sales process.

Ask regularly

Asking for referrals occasionally will get you only limited referrals. You can get many more valuable referrals by doing it regularly.

Put it on the form

If you use a sales call form (paper or electronic), filling in details of each sales visit or call, then include a section of the form that has fields for referral details.

Get full detail

Do make sure you get full details. This includes the name of the person, contact information for them, their job title, the relationship with the referrer and further information about their situation.

Think creatively

Look beyond your normal customers.  Find partners in getting referrals. Be creative! Here are a few ideas:

  • Make calls solely for the purpose of seeking referrals.
  • Go to conferences and exchange business cards.
  • Call up people who supply complementary products to yours. Partner with them, giving them referrals in return.
  • Get referrals from sponsorship deals. You sponsor a charity event and they give your referrals in return.
  • Talk to people who talk to people, like reception staff, secretaries, hairdressers, etc.
  • Get back to people after the visit to say thank you. And to ask for referrals.

See also

Using Referrals

Book review: Creating a Million dollar a Year Sales Income, by Paul McCord

Sales Books

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