ANSWER: They Don't Ask!
How much income is missed?
More than 2/3 of the hundreds of clients and prospective clients that I've asked admit that they or their sales people do not have a plan to ask for referrals as a normal course of their business discussions. Most people in business do not regularly ask for referrals. The most profitable sales leads typically come from customer referrals and referrals from your network.
Do you ask for referrals? How much income have you missed? Think about that.
Time to Celebrate!
If you or your sales team does not consistently ask for referrals as part of their day to day activity, there is reason to celebrate! This is an opportunity to make your business more successful by approaching customers, prospects, and people in your network and asking for referrals.
Three Different Approaches to Ask for Referrals
1) Customer approach - "Thank you. I am honored that you are my customer. I like doing business with people like you." (wait for a response). Then transition into a question like, "who do you know that may benefit from my product (or service)."
2) Prospect approach - If you cannot get commitment to your next step today, "I'm sorry that you aren't ready to discuss this opportunity. When is a good time to follow up with you?" After they answer and you finish up with that question. "Do you know any people like yourself or in your network who I can help with my product (or service)?" Wait for response.
3) Networking approach - If it is a networking event, you don't need a subtle approach like this idea, which is more geared towards somebody who engages in a conversation about your work. "I'm glad you find my line of work interesting. I really feel a good connection with you." Wait for a response and address it. "I like doing business with people like you. Who do you know that I could help with my product (or service)?"
After you get the first referral, do this
If you get one referral from the question, ask the same person for a second, third, etc. Use the question after the first answer like this, "Wow, thanks! Who else do you know?"
Insurance Customer Example
For example, if you sell insurance, and you call a current customer for a policy renewal, thank them for the renewal and ask "Who do you know that may need my help protecting their families future?". Notice how there was a benefit at the end of that question? You want to position the question that the customers want to help the people they know.
Make sure you "earn the right to advance" before asking this question. They should be in a proper psychological mode to answer the question favorably. If you need some ideas, there are many tactics available to help you make the right approaches to receive the most favorable responses. You can find these on-line or through sales consulting services like mine.
Referrals aren't just for sales leads
One other point; use referrals to help with all your business objectives. Here are some ideas:
New business development opportunities (sales leads)
Employee recruitment to help find qualified new hires
Vendor or business partner recruitment
Before you start pro-actively building your referral network, create a contact plan and develop a script. Use your own words for a script so that your message will communicate more naturally. If you need ideas, use on-line resources or seek outside sales consulting services (like mine) to help you maximize your productivity from this new habit. Then, when you make the contact with your potential referral source, you'll have a smooth confident greeting followed by a series of effective information gathering questions. Remember, if it sounds scripted to you, that's ok as long as it is smooth and doesn't sound scripted to your contact. You'll come across consistently professional with a well thought-out approach.
Urgent! Start Now!
Each day you or your employees do not ask for referrals is costing your business money.
Best wishes and thanks for reading this article. If you want coaching or advice on this or any other topic related to running a sales organization, coaching a sales team, or hiring salespeople, feel free to contact me at anytime.
PS. Check out this e-book with 63 powerful sales tips to help you increase sales. You can read it in less than an hour. It is written by one of the most accomplished sales bloggers out there.