I have read my fair share of sales books
over the years. I have attended countless numbers of seminars. I have been a
part of several “more formal” sales classes. And, one consistent theme is the
This can be a very tough topic for many
sales reps and managers. It seems everyone has a different approach, but all
based on the same trained theme, you must ask for referrals. Why is this? How
did this approach of YOU asking for the referral become the norm? Is this
ultimately the best way to obtain a referral lead?
About 16 or 17 years ago I was
introduced to a new concept for referrals. Well, there really wasn’t anything
new about it, except no one was really practicing this approach. It is so
simple that everyone should be doing it, yet no one was (or still is) on a
Here it is: Don’t ask for a referral…rather
do your best work – make a client your biggest fan – and the referrals will
come to you unsolicited!!!
Taking on this approach was not easy. I
had to break myself of the habit of asking my clients and colleagues for people
they know or “who may know who for an introduction”. It can be a little scary
even, not asking for referrals and waiting & hoping you get them coming to
you. But, with good work comes happy clients. With happy clients come
There is a small amount of training that
comes into the mix with this approach. Mostly, it begins in the initial sales
process, when you make mention that you do not ask for referrals, but rather
you hope your work will speak volumes and you, Mr. or Ms. Client, will be so
happy that you’ll share my information with your own clients and colleagues.
Staying in regular contact with your
clients after the sale is complete is the next part in obtaining unsolicited
referrals. Make sure you are not overbearing in your approach, but consistent enough
that you will stay top of mind. Have a schedule of when and why you will
contact your clients; and, mix it up with a combination of email, hand-written
notes sent in the mail, telephone calls, and face-to-face conversations.
Staying top of mind will increase the likelihood of your client mentioning you and
your company in other business conversations.
Lastly, entertain your clients in small
group engagements, and always offer for your client to bring a guest. It may be
a round-table style educational luncheon covering a new industry topic. Or,
instead of playing 18 holes of golf over the span of 6 hours and then hoping
for conversations to take place over lunch, try playing indoor golf over the
span of 3 hours where your entire group of attendees are together in the same
room. This is a great way to spend intimate time with your clients and guests
on a rainy or cold day. It’s something different, yet familiar enough that
enjoyment will be had by all, and the conversations will lead to referral
Asking for a referral can be easy.
Obtaining an unsolicited referral might be a little more difficult and take a
slightly longer period of time. But, which one do you believe will net better