Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Referrals: Better when unsolicited! - July 4, 2015

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 referral ask.


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 regular basis.


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 referrals.


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 business.


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 results?

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