With referral selling, the hard part is over before you ever speak to prospects.
“How can you help me?” asked Jim, my prospect. He’d been explaining an exciting referral initiative he was rolling out around the country. While it seemed to be working great, he still wanted to know how I could contribute.
At first I wasn’t sure I could. It sounded like I might be too late to the party. But after some discussion, we mutually identified one potentially-fatal flaw in the plan.
Jim’s salespeople were meeting with key influencers within companies that were already their best clients—including CEOs, managers, and HR staff members who actually used the product. The purpose was to highlight the tangible benefits they received, many of which they’d paid for but weren’t accessing. After laying all this groundwork and ensuring users were happy, the sales reps would have one-on-one meetings with the CEOs of each company. This was when they were supposed to ask for referrals.
Problem was, many of the reps didn’t know how to ask for referrals from CEOs.
No Need to Sell
At this point, my prospect hadn’t met me or read my book, and hadn’t seen anything other than my website. So naturally I was a bit nervous about making my business case for referrals (and for me).
The good news was he understood the value of referrals. “No need to sell me on that,” he said.
Jim also didn’t need to be sold on me. He said he was meeting with his leadership team the next day and would share my ideas to make his program more successful.
“What do you need from me?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said. I’d been referred by Sue, a key member of his team whose judgment he respected, and that was all the information he needed about me.
That’s the power of referral-based selling. You don’t have to sell yourself to referred prospects; someone else has already done that for you.
Your Referral Source Has Power
The irony is that I haven’t known Sue for long. We met at a conference and had the usual getting-to-know-you chat: “Do you like the conference? What did you think of the speaker? Is this your first conference? What brings you here? What do you do?”
When I shared information about referral selling, she told me about Jim and his referral campaign. I mentioned that I’d like to meet him and hear what he’s doing, and that I’d be glad to share referral selling tips anytime. That was all it took for her to make the introduction.
And that’s why referral selling is the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. When you have a referral, the hard part of selling is over before you ever talk to the prospect.
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