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Asking for Referrals Via Email—Big Mistake

eQuaintenanceReferral selling requires a personal touch.

How many emails are waiting in your inbox? Enough to make you dread opening it?

Most people have a love/hate relationship with email. It’s both a fantastic business tool and a huge time-waster. Worse yet, digital communication is beginning to replace the real human connections that drive sales.

When Email Is Not OK

There’s nothing wrong with email. The problem is that people rely on it even when actually talking to someone is quicker, easier, and more appropriate.

Whether you’re asking for referrals, communicating with your team, or having an in-depth conversation, emailing often sends the wrong message. Written communication doesn’t convey tone of voice or provide the rich opportunities to connect with other people. It also doesn’t say, “You’re worth my real time.” And that’s a particularly big no-no when sales reps are asking for referrals.

That’s why I enjoyed Laura Vanderkam’s Fast Company article, “5 Ways to Avoid a Massive Email Misunderstanding.” Her #1 tip for deciding when email is or isn’t the right way to go:

1. Consider What Would Be Better as a Phone Call
Email is good for straightforward information sharing, or asking close-ended questions. “If the email ends with, ‘Thoughts?’ that’s a sign it’s not meant to be an email,” says Leonov [vice president for growth at email management system SaneBox]. Pick up the phone instead.

For more on the right and wrong ways to use email, read the rest of Vanderkam’s article.

Asking for Referrals by Email?

Referral selling is the most personal prospecting method that exists. It’s based on building and nurturing strong relationships with clients, colleagues, and friends who like and trust you enough to suggest other people do business with you. That’s why asking for referrals requires a personal touch, not a quick email and definitely not an automated LinkedIn request, but a conversation—either in person or on the phone.

This isn’t just common courtesy; it’s also a chance for sales reps to ask how referral sources are doing, to offer them valuable resources or referrals, and to ultimately strengthen those important relationships.

Sure, making a personal request requires more effort than shooting off a quick digital message. But when you’re asking for referrals that will help to grow your business, the least you can do is pick up the damn phone!

Join the Conversation: How do you encourage your sales team to build strong relationships with clients, colleagues, and other prime referral sources?

Ready to put a referral program in place? Click here to find out how No More Cold Calling can help.

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Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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One Response to Asking for Referrals Via Email—Big Mistake

  1. Joanne – great article!

    Quick question – what is your suggestion on how to handle a customer/client who is difficult to get on the phone? Is it EVER ok to ask for a referral by email?

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