I have been a believer of referral
business since I began my career. Nothing is more gratifying that having a
current or previous client provide you with a referral. It is a true testament
as to their happiness with the service or product you are providing them. And,
referral business is so important, there are books and training programs
surrounding this very topic.
Successful sales people in pretty much
every industry will tell you that referral business is a must. It is THE key to
becoming successful. Yet, many will not share how they obtain referrals. There
is a real knack for obtaining quality referrals. Many in the sales training
industry teach various methods on how to ask for the referral or how to build a
“referral program” which is aimed at compensating for an obtained referral.
But, I believe there is a way to obtain a referral that doesn’t cost you
anything and you don’t have to blatantly ask for it.
Obtaining a referral without directly
asking is the same as navigating the sales waters to go from a cold lead to a
warm introduction. The goal, of course, is to gain an in with a prospect by
having someone introduce you. Think about personal introductions: Jane, I’d
like to introduce you to Keith. Keith is an old friend. The statement that
Keith is an “old friend” is the testament. What Jane hears is that you value
your friendship with Keith enough to not only make an introduction, you are
stating that he is an old friend, which places emphasis on your personal
feelings for Keith. You just made a referral. You’ve said to Jane that it would
be worth her while to meet Keith (for whatever reason).
Obtaining a referral in business is
similar. When you identify a prospect that you feel is worthwhile and worthy of
your time spent trying to sell, you need to expedite the introduction process.
Here are the steps to gain the referral without directly asking for it:
a mutual acquaintance, friend, colleague or client
this person a note by email or even text asking not “if they know Joe” but “how
they know Joe” – this accomplishes two tasks – first you will confirm their
knowledge of the person you wish to meet and second how they know them
next step is the most critical. You need to phrase your follow-up question so
naturally that your client (or whoever fits this spot) doesn’t even think
twice. Question: Craig, sounds like you’ve had a great business relationship
with Joe for a while. His name has popped up on my radar more than once. In
fact, I’ve tried to get in touch with him a few times to talk shop. I believe
he’d be a good fit for my company, maybe not as good you (insert laugh), but a
good fit. What do you think?
I’ve had conversations basically end here, more times than not my client (or
whoever fits this spot) immediately offers to make the introduction. I thank
them and even encourage ways on which to make the introduction.
Referral business can be a difference
maker in moving from a ‘B’ level sales person to an ‘A’ level sales person.
Being tactful, and sometime stealth in your approach, will ultimately drive
your referral business higher and higher. Don’t sit back and wait for referrals
to come your way…drive them directly.