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The Shocking Secret to Make Asking for Referrals Easier

Describe your ideal client.

Does everyone know your ideal client profile? That’s the question I asked more than 500 sales pros. Only 25.31 percent answered yes. That means three-quarters of account based sales teams have failed to complete the first step in asking for referrals—making it clear who they want to meet.

If people don’t know exactly who your team wants to meet, it’s really hard for them to refer you. That’s a shame, because every sales rep wants to learn effective methods of generating leads. Not any leads, but leads that are qualified. Referral introductions are as qualified as leads can get.

More Doesn’t Mean You Hit the Jackpot

The key to increasing revenue and achieving quota isn’t cramming the top of the funnel with as many prospects as possible—qualified or not. It’s an exercise in futility and wasted time. It stalls your process, and it isn’t how to generate leads.

Sales velocity is important, but what really drives sales is getting the right qualified leads into the funnel, nurturing them, and increasing their velocity through the funnel. When account based selling teams work with their ideal clients, their sales cycles dramatically decrease and profits increase, because these clients:

  • Spend more
  • Don’t quibble on price
  • Collaborate for results
  • Refer you to other ideal clients

Even better, working with them is fun. They value what you offer, keep the lines of communication open, are forward-thinking and reasonable, and commit the time, money, and resources you need to make projects successful.

Perhaps more importantly, you understand their businesses and the way they buy, so you can deliver exactly what they need. The same isn’t true of every potential client. 

Create Your Ideal Client Profile Before Asking for Referrals 

No business can be all things to all customers. Every company has its ideal clients—the best geographical fit, best vertical, best relationships, best whatever.  A winning referral program will keep this in mind. 

When you describe your ideal client, the key is to be overly specific. Account based sales reps often think that if they don’t mention everything they offer, they’ll miss a sale. The opposite is true. The more specific the description, the easier it is for your connections to understand exactly the person you want to meet.

When you’re precise about your ideal client and incorporate asking for referrals into your sales process, your referral sources will no longer be confused about the best leads for you. People want to make the best introductions possible. And you can choose your clients. But you get what you ask for, so ask for exactly what you want.

Here’s how it works. Create a description of your ideal client using the following categories:

  • Industry: Which industries are you targeting? Where does your business have a track record and existing relationships?
  • Geography: In what regions or countries do you want to work?
  • Company Size: What is the ideal size of your target prospect, and how do you measure it? (number of employees, revenue, length of time in business, geographic coverage)
  • Business Unit or Function: What group of people within the company are your ideal contacts?
  • Type of Person: What are the personality traits of your ideal client?
  • Situation/Need: What is the problem your prospect faces that makes your help necessary?

When your sales team nails this description, and communicates it to their referral sources, they not only get more qualified leads, they get qualified leads your team can’t wait to work with.

Never Take the Bait from These Prospects

What happens when you keep your idea client profile a secret? You get fewer referrals, and worse yet, you end up with a bunch of PITA (pain in the a**) clients.

PITAs try to whittle down your price, threaten to take their business to your competitors, make unreasonable demands, are difficult to reach, and tell you they have decision-making authority, even when they don’t. If you accept PITAs, you’d better charge them a whole lot more. They’ll miss deadlines, blame you for anything that goes wrong, and terrorize your team. No matter how hard you work for them, they’ll never be satisfied. They might offer you referrals, but you won’t want them to, because PITAs … well, they hang out with other PITAs.

Too many PITAs also become an opportunity cost, because they keep your sales team too busy to attract their ideal clients.

Stop the Downward Spiral

When your account based selling team commits to asking for referrals from their ideal clients, they get introduced to ideal clients. They get every meeting with one call and blow the competition out of the water. Their conversion rates skyrocket to well more than 50 percent. No other prospecting approach beats a referral to an ideal client. 

That’s why 25.31 percent is unacceptable. When your account based sales reps clearly define their ideal clients, communicate with precision, and get referral introductions, they need fewer leads to close more business. They achieve or exceed their quota, and they protect themselves and the rest of the organization from PITAs.

Your referral sources aren’t mind-readers. You wouldn’t socialize in a dark room, so why keep your clients and colleagues in the dark? You know who your ideal client is, but your customers, colleagues, and friends might not … unless you tell them.

For more on asking for referrals to your ideal client, check out this video.

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