How to ask for referrals and other FAQs.
After more than 25 years as an expert on referral sales, I’m still asked exactly the same referral selling questions today. (Maybe even more frequently than before.) I’m going to answer them right now.
In no particular order, here are the most common referral selling questions I hear …
1. How do I get over my reluctance to ask for referrals?
When an experienced sales guy told me he wasn’t comfortable asking for referrals, I had to think seriously about the answer. Turns out most everyone has the same discomfort about sales referrals. Common objections include:
- It feels desperate. Yep, you’re thinking: “If I were really successful, I wouldn’t have to ask.” (That’s a fallacy. Referrals are how salespeople become really successful. We need to be ABA: Always Be Asking.)
- It’s pushy and aggressive like the stereotypical sleazy used car salesman. You’re not that kind of seller. (That’s great, because no one wants to refer pushy, aggressive people. Referrals are based on trust, and there’s nothing sleazy about that.)
- It will change the relationship you have with people—especially with clients. (It might actually deepen the relationship, because again, referrals are built on trust.)
- What if they say “no?”
Actually, getting a “no” is the biggest fear, because it means putting your reputation on the line, doesn’t it? Your referral sources must trust you to take care of their contact as they would—to put their reputation on the line for you . But what if they don’t? That would blow the trust you’d cultivated and embarrass you to no end. You don’t want to risk a “no” answer, so you miss the opportunity to ask. And there’s the discomfort.
Even when my clients have learned how to ask for referrals and practiced, they’re still hesitant. But here’s the thing. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
If you provide a valuable product or service, and perhaps more importantly, a good buying experience, your customers will be happy to refer you. I distinctly recall a client who asked her client for a referral. She was shocked, surprised, and happy when her client said “yes.” I wasn’t.
(Image attribution: Ann H)
2. Should I ask my clients for referrals?
You bet you should. They’re your highest value revenue source. They love you, and they’ve gotten tremendous results. And don’t limit yourself to buyers. Ask everyone you’ve come in contact with during the sales process for a referral introduction. OK, maybe you didn’t have a great relationship with everyone, but you sure did with most. Think of it this way. You’re enrolling your clients as your outsourced sales team.
Pay attention to this. They might not realize you want more clients. Seems silly, but it’s true. They’re not mind-readers. They’re busy running their businesses, and they’re just not thinking of you.
When I ask my clients if they’ve asked every one of their clients for sales referrals, the answer is always no. Mistake. Don’t say goodbye to all those great relationships you spent time and energy building. Nurture and grow those relationships to turn them into repeat business and hot referral leads.
3. Why should I stick my neck out and ask for referrals?
This is one of the most common referral selling questions I get from people who don’t know how to ask for referrals. They’ve asked before, and it hasn’t worked, so they’ve given up. That’s because they ask like this: “If you know anyone who could benefit from my services, please let them know about me.” Does that sound like a proactive, intentional, confident ask? Of course not. No one will give this generic comment a second thought.
So, how do you ask? With a specific request like, “Who are one or two people you know I should meet?” or “Who are one or two people you can introduce me to?” Of course, before you ask these questions, you’ve done your research. You must help your referral source think of someone. That’s your job!!
4. How do I help people make good, relevant referrals to me?
- Explain specifically who you want to meet. What is your ideal buyer’s industry, company size, role, personality? Go into as much detail as possible.
- Explain why prospects should meet you. What will they get out of meeting with you? When your referral source offers to introduce you, they should let your prospect know that reason.
- Ask for an email introduction in which you get copied. (Introduction is the key word here. A name and contact info is not a referral.)
- Write a simple response—nothing about your company, and please, no attachments.
Here’s a referral example email I send when I’m introduced to a prospect, and I always copy my referral source::
“Hi (First Name);
“It was great of (insert name) to introduce us. Let’s schedule time to talk.”
(Then suggest times to talk—always in your prospect’s time zone—or send a link to your calendar.)
“In the meantime, I’ll invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn, so we can get to know each other. Looking forward to our conversation.”
Now, here are my referral selling questions for you. I can’t take credit for the list. One of my clients emailed this to her sales team to get them excited about referral selling.
- What if your prospects were already pre-sold?
- What if they already had a level of trust in you, the rep?
- What if 50 percent of your prospects turned into customers?
- What if you could shorten your sales process?
- What if all of the above could save you money in acquiring prospects?
She was obviously in a proactive selling mode, and her team was very interested in learning how all this could be theirs. Are you?
I’ve answered the referral selling questions that I’m asked the most frequently. Let me know what others you have.
Here’s to great referrals!
Want more referral tips? Please register for my Referral Selling Insights and gain access to the 14-question Referral I.Q. Quiz. It’s quick and anonymous, and most people find the results eye-opening.
(Featured image attribution: Jon Tyson)