Think a referral system is easy? Think again!
All things being equal, we work with friends. All things not being equal, we work with friends. And when we need a specialist, we ask a friend.
That’s why referral selling is the only prospecting strategy that ensures qualified lead generation. And it only works if you have a referral system in place to ensure sales reps ask for referrals every day.
The business case for referral selling is loud and clear. When sales reps receive referral introductions, they:
- Score meetings with decision-makers, while the competition is still figuring out how to get in
- Reduce the time it takes to close deals
- Spend more time with customers and less time prospecting
- Get in before buyers know they have a need and set the standards by which others are evaluated
- Save you money (There are no expensive marketing costs—just your own sales team out there selling for you.)
- Convert prospects into clients at least 50 percent of the time (Most clients report a conversion rate of more than 70 percent.)
Referral selling is simple, but it’s not easy. If it were, every sales organization would have a system in place to guarantee these results. Yet, fewer than 5 percent of companies have a disciplined, measurable, proactive referral system.
What does it take to guarantee referral prospecting success?
1. Prioritize referrals.
Executives don’t leave important buying decisions to chance. That would be dumb. Their bottom lines—and their reputations—are at stake. So, they ask someone they know well for a referral when they need an expert salesperson to help with a specific project or corporate initiative.
Why, then, do sales leaders leave referral prospecting to chance? They think all they need to do is tell their sales teams to ask for referrals. I call that the “point and tell” syndrome. It doesn’t work.
Referrals don’t just happen, at least not at scale. Yes, occasionally a well-served client will mention your company to another buyer and you’ll magically get a sale. But how often does that really happen?
More importantly, asking for referrals won’t be a priority for your team unless it’s a priority for you. So, if you’re just pointing and telling, they’re probably not asking.
2. Create a referral system.
A referral system is a strategic initiative driven by the executive team. It’s not just one more lead generation initiative or training program to introduce to your organization. It means integrating referral selling into your sales process and making referral selling your #1 outbound prospecting approach.
Successfully shifting your sales team to referral selling means establishing both activity and results metrics, building their referral skills, ensuring accountability for results, and implementing with precision. Help your team understand why referrals are the key to surpassing their quotas.
No other sales or marketing strategy delivers such powerful, predictable results. And it all starts with you—the sales leader.
3. Commit to referrals.
Whether you are CEO, vice president, or a sales manager, you have a central role in your company’s sales process and in the decision to transition to a referral selling strategy. Now’s your chance to change the game. Are you “all in” with referral selling, or just trying it on? Are you telling your team to ask for referrals? Or do you unequivocally believe and trust that you have a referral system in place to drive revenue, save your job, and position your company for sales success? If you’re not committed to the process, your team won’t be either.
Referral selling transforms everything it touches. When you commit to referral selling and integrate it into your sales organization, your team will bring in more qualified leads, foster better long-term relationships with customers, decrease the cost of sales, and generate more revenue. It’s really a no-brainer. While your competition is still playing around on social media, sending cold emails, and trying to identify decision-makers, your sales team will be in the conference room sealing deals.
The shift won’t happen in a day or a week. You don’t get fit in a week; you don’t change business in a week. A full commitment can be life-changing. Change yours—forever.