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How to Build Trust and Generate Leads with a Referral Program

Because what you’re already doing isn’t working.

Your lead generation tactics aren’t driving bottom line revenue. That’s a fact. I’ve just returned from three conferences, and the #1 challenge I heard sales pros repeat again and again was how to get leads in the pipe. Everyone complained that they didn’t have enough leads, or at least not enough qualified leads.

Wait, wasn’t technology supposed to solve that problem? Despite the fact that most companies have marketing automation solutions, targeted outreach by SDRs, and intense social media strategies, account execs still aren’t making quota.

According to an Insidesales.com study, as reported in Forbes, 58.4 percent of salespeople in the U.S. attain quota, and about 65 percent of sales reps in Europe do so. What sales leader would find these stats acceptable? It’s obvious that existing lead generation methods aren’t generating qualified leads.

Why not? And how can a B2B referral program drive up those numbers?

I Feel Like We’ve Met Before

I’ve figured out the lead gen problem. We all look the same to our buyers. None of us stands out. How could we, when we’re all standing behind screens? Our messages are mostly digital, and they all sound the same. Worse yet, in many cases, the promises that salespeople make are … well, suspect.

Talk to any software vendor, and they can’t wait to show you their cool software. Problem is, buyers don’t actually buy software. They buy what your software does for them—how it saves time, decreases costs, engages customers, tracks referrals, etc. They don’t want to see your demo. They want you to ask smart questions about their business, engage them in conversation, and determine specifically how your product will mitigate their challenges.

You have a choice. You can look like every other company, or you can set yourself apart from the rest.

The trick is getting in front of your buyers before they even know they need you, helping them identify the pain points they didn’t know were hurting, gaining their trust, and building a relationship.

How do you ensure that your sales team gets in the door before your competitors? You put a referral program in place that ensures reps have the skills to ask for referrals. When they get introductions from people their prospects know and trust, they walk straight into meetings with your ideal clients. They don’t have to worry about getting past gatekeepers or heading off the competition, because they have the best possible competitive advantage—a relationship built on trust.

To Know You Is to Trust You (or Is It?)

Salespeople know that building trust is paramount, and it can be difficult to achieve. So, what is trust, anyway? It depends on whom you ask. For me, it means integrity and keeping your word. From a sales perspective, that means referral sources can count on you to take care of their colleagues as they would.

I also like this definition from Stephen M.R. Covey: “Trust is equal parts character and competence … You can look at any leadership failure, and it’s always a failure of one or the other.”

Some people engender trust immediately. Most don’t. Those who do have a special way about them:  They exude self-confidence, and they connect and contribute. Others we need to get to know before we trust them or need to find out if others trust them. And there are still others we would never trust.

This is a problem for many sales pros. After all, the research about how much people trust our profession is pretty dismal.

In groundbreaking research by Steve W. Martin, business buyers said they think about 12 percent of salespeople are excellent, 23 percent are good, 38 percent are average (whatever that means), and 27 percent are just plain bad at their jobs. Worse yet, only 18 percent of the salespeople these buyers met over the past year were “trusted advisers whom they respect.”

Could lack of trustworthiness be the reason that so many lead generation approaches aren’t producing qualified leads?

Why a Referral Program Ensures Trust

I may have answered my own question. Reps cold call, send cold emails, do cold outreach on social media, and rely on marketing to nurture prospects and send them qualified leads. They forget that technology doesn’t close deals. People do. We seal deals by building trusted relationships, and that’s exactly what happens when companies adopt referral selling as their primary outbound prospecting approach.

When reps get a referral introduction, they arrive with credibility and trust already earned. Why? The trust the prospect has for the referral source is transferred to the salesperson.

Referred reps get every meeting in one call, because their calls are expected and welcome. Then it’s up to them to reinforce that trust by having intelligent conversations, uncovering needs, and sharing insights and best practices. No pitching, no promotions, no duplicitous sales tactics.

Here’s the beauty of a referral. Because buyers trust referred salespeople, they often share important inside information—including how decisions are made, who is on board, who to watch out for, and what reps need to do to seal the deal. Referred reps are privy to important timelines and budget concerns. They have the inside track, and their probability of closing a deal is well more than 50 percent (most salespeople tell me it’s more than 70 percent). No other lead generation approach comes close.

When you prospect through referrals, you set the standard by which others must compete. Your competitors don’t stand a chance. That’s how to get leads in the pipe—not just any leads, but qualified leads. With a referral program, your lead generation problem is solved. Why would you work any other way? 

Want your team to get meetings in one call, and walk into those meetings with trust already earned? Learn more about the #1 Referral Selling Program for Account Based Sales.

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