Referrals – Grow a Pair!
A reader wrote to me recently and asked – “Would you have any past articles about how to ask for referrals? It’s one of those awkward things that no one seems to like to do but has so much potential to help grow a book of business. If not, maybe you could do a future article on it?”
Yes, Anthony Catalano! I have some strong opinions on referrals.
Referrals are your very best source of business and they sure beat picking up the phone and cold calling.
Who should you ask for referrals? Everyone. The obvious choice is happy customers but I suggest there are more sources. How about prospects who don’t buy? If you’ve done your job properly (established rapport, listened more than you spoke, treated them with respect, truly added value during the sales process even though they didn’t end up buying for now) they may very well have referrals for you if you ask. How about almost anyone, like people you’re sitting next to on an airplane (a favorite of mine) or people sitting at nearby tables at a diner (I listen in on conversations and look for an opening to jump in). How about finding people who sell to the same client base as you, but are in non-competitive industries? For example, headhunters who recruit salespeople are a natural referral source for me and I am for them. Form relationships that will offer mutual benefit and ask. At the very least you should be asking your clients for referrals regularly.
How should you ask? Simple. “Anthony, as you may know, I grow my business with direct referrals from happy clients just like you. (Replace the words “happy clients” with whatever is appropriate) Who do you know that I should be speaking with?” Notice I didn’t say, “Do you have anyone you can refer me to?” That’s a yes or no question, and the answer is often, “Not right now, but if I think of anyone I’ll let you know.” You want referrals NOW! Asking it as I’m recommending will, hopefully, get your client (or whoever you’re asking) thinking about who they know that they can refer you to.
Once someone has a referral from you, the next words out of your mouth should be, “Thanks very much? Would you mind doing me a quick favor right now? (Wait for them to say yes) Would you please give them a quick call and let them know you think I may have something valuable for them and that you’ve given me their contact information, and you’d appreciate it if they’d accept my call when I reach out?” What’s the worst they’ll say? No, and if they do you’ve still got the referral. If they won’t make the phone call, ask if they’ll send an email. Almost everyone will agree to that because it’s easier than making a call on your behalf. If they agree to an email, ask, “Would it help if I wrote the email for you? I can send it to you then you can cut and paste it into a new email and send it to Bob (or whatever the referral’s name is). Would that help?” OF COURSE it will help, that way they don’t have to invest time writing it but, more importantly, now you get to craft the introduction exactly the way you want it!
The reason most salespeople don’t get enough referrals is they simply don’t ask. Your clients have referrals for you, in fact lots of people have referrals for you, but they’re busy with their own lives and their own business and even if they like you very much, they might never offer. By being proactive you dramatically increase the odds of getting referrals. Early on in my sales training career I was sitting across from an SVP of Sales, discussing how the training program was going about three months after starting it. I asked for referrals and he said, “As a matter of fact I have two great ones for you and I was waiting for you to ask!” Both turned into business, one of them into a VERY substantial deal.
If you’re in sales and aren’t getting enough referrals, GROW A PAIR and start asking. A referral done as I’ve suggested above, where the referrer actually makes the introduction for you (whether by phone or email) takes you halfway to a closed sale. You’re being referred to someone that the referrer trusts!
Make your life easier and close more business…ASK FOR REFERRALS!
While we’re on the subject, who do YOU know that I should be speaking with???