By Paul McCord, President, McCord and Associates
The top producers who run their businesses from referrals have learned a disciplined process of referral generation. Even without learning their process, you can implement these seven strategies they use to increase the volume and quality of the referrals you get from your clients.
Referrals. We all want them. Yet, few of us generate many quality referrals from our clients and prospects. For most of us, referral generation is a hit or miss proposition – and it’s mostly a miss.
In reality, the fault doesn’t lie with us. It is the way we’ve been taught to ask for referrals that is the culprit. Most of us have been taught to simply ‘do a good job and ask for referrals.’ And we’ve found that that process doesn’t work well. Sure, we may get a name and phone or two here and there, but these are usually to companies that either don’t want or need our products or can’t afford them. Consequently, our ‘referrals’ turn out to be time wasters. We get a sale from a referral here – another sale there. Just enough to keep us asking – maybe.
Furthermore, we look around at our peers and find that, they are as unsuccessful and frustrated with referrals as we are. Nevertheless, we keep hearing that referrals are the best marketing tool there is. And, we see a few associates and competitors – a precious few – who manage to not only generate some referrals, but generate enough to build top-performing businesses from them.
What do these highly successful salespeople who can run successful practices almost strictly from referrals do differently? Do they know some great secret that the rest don’t know?
In a sense, yes, they do. Like most (everyone else), they discovered that the traditional way of generating referrals doesn’t work well. They discovered they needed a disciplined, detailed PROCESS that could be integrated with their sales process that prepares the client to give referrals and that virtually guarantees the client will give them a large number of high-quality referrals after the sale.
Rather than the typical hit or miss, ‘hope I get one,’ format most salespeople use, these mega-referral generators turn referrals into a predictable process – they don’t ask for referrals, they GENERATE them.
Although, we don’t have the space to delineate a full process in a short article, we can steal 7 quick strategies from these referral superstars you can implement that will immediately increase both the quantity and quality of the referrals you receive from your clients:
Sounds surprisingly simple, right? But studies have shown that over 50% of all salespeople DON’T ask. If you don’t ask, you can’t expect to get them.
2. Ask More Than Once
Studies have also shown, that over 70% of the salespeople who do ask for referrals, only ask once. However, those who ask twice receive over twice as many referrals than those who only ask once – and those who ask three times receive over four times as many referrals than those who only ask once.
3. Really Ask
Many salespeople think they are asking for referrals when all they are really doing is SUGGESTING referrals. Instead of a direct request, they will try to soften the request by saying something like: “Jan, if you happen to run across someone who could use my services, would you mind giving them one of my cards?” Or, “Dave, if you know of someone I could help, would you mention me to them?”
Suggesting referrals isn’t referral generation. It’s trying to generate ‘Word of Mouth’ marketing – a passive process where the salesperson has no control of the process. If, the client does hand a card to a prospect, the prospect may or may not call. Moreover, most often the client never makes the suggestion to a prospect in the first place.
4. Tell the Client Whom You’re Looking for
Few salespeople help the client make quality referrals by letting the client know who a quality referral for them is. They assume, the client understands enough about what they do and what they sell and that the client can figure out on their own what a good referral is. Bad assumption.
We know what a quality referral for us is and we think it is obvious to our client. But that client isn’t in our business. What is obvious to us isn’t obvious to the client. We have to let them know exactly who we’re looking for.
5. Give the Client Time to Think
Most salespeople wait until after the sale has been completed to bring the subject of referrals up. Often, the request for referrals comes literally, as they are walking out the door.
By waiting until the last second to spring the request for referrals on the client – and then standing there waiting for an answer, the salesperson has given their client only 10 or 15 seconds to go through their mental file cabinet to come up with quality referrals. That isn’t realistic. If you want quality referrals, you must give the client an opportunity to think about whom to refer.
6. Help the Client Make Quality Referrals
Despite your best efforts to educate your client on what a quality referral for you is, many clients will claim to have none for you. But these clients DO have great referrals to give – they just don’t know it.
Help your client by suggesting specific companies you know you want to be referred to that your client probably knows. During the sales process, you need to be doing your homework. Discover who your client’s vendors are; who their customers are; even, whom that client worked for in the past. Develop a list of 15 to 25 companies you know you want to be referred to, that you have reason to believe your client may know and then ask if they would refer you to these companies. If you have a list of 15 to 25, your client will probably know 5 to 8. And if you’ve done your job well, they will refer you to them.
Make it easy for your client to make referrals.
7. Don’t Get Names and Phone Numbers – Get Introduced
Most salespeople are thrilled to get a name and phone number or two. They run back to their office and immediately make a major mistake. They pick up the phone and call the prospect.
Mega-referral producers don’t get names and phone numbers – they get direct introductions to the prospect from their client. They don’t want to make a warm call – they want an introduction. A warm call is little better than a cold call. An introduction almost guarantees a meeting with the prospect.
Mega-referral producers use a sophisticated process to turn referral generation into a science that is an integral part of their sales process. But if you incorporate these seven strategies into your selling process, you’ll immediately increase the volume, the quality, and the effectiveness of the referrals you receive.
Learning how to generate a large volume of high-quality referrals takes time; it takes learning a proven process; and it takes perfecting that process. Nevertheless, by simply asking and then helping your client give quality referrals, you’ll find it much easier to get the referrals you want.