teamWe all want more business referrals. Many of us believe that because our business is complex and sophisticated, that only certain people are good connections – meaning that only certain people are good for business development. This assumption is just wrong. Everyone knows someone: You just need to ask.

The World Is Your Oyster

Business referrals come from everywhere. Think about it. Think of all the people you know (and you know lots of people). The people you know know people. And you don’t know who people know until you ask. You might get the perfect referral from your attorney, a fellow passenger on an airplane, your fellow employees, your next-door neighbor, or even your family.

A client of mine gave a wedding gift of Italian lessons to an employee, named Ken, who was going to Italy on his honeymoon. The Italian teacher told Ken that he had to meet his cousin Vinnie (just kidding) while in Italy. Ken and his bride took time out from their honeymoon to have a meal with Vinnie. They had a great time, and during the conversation, Vinnie asked Ken where he worked. Turns out (surprise!) that Vinnie had a good friend in San Francisco that he thought Ken should meet. Vinnie’s friend became Ken’s client, and has offered to refer Ken to others he knows. Italian lessons turned into a business referral.

Six Degrees…

We’ve all heard of “Six Degrees of Separation.” In my book, it’s more like one or two… . One of the best referral sources for potential new business is all around you: Your fellow co-workers. Everyone in your organization knows dozens and maybe even hundreds of other people. Who do you think understands the value of your organization better than those who work there? And who could possibly have more invested in your company’s success? Business referrals are right under your nose.

Where did your fellow employees work before they joined your company? Who is their next-door neighbor? Who is their brother who works at your prospect company? Spend the time to talk with them, learn about their history, and what is important to them. Help them to understand that sales help your (your, their, our) company prosper and keeps their job secure.

Before I headed out on my own, I worked for a consulting firm. One day I was talking to a colleague about the difficulty I was having connecting with the V.P. of sales at a high-tech company. A new IT employee overheard my conversation and said he thought he could help. I thought, “Oh sure… he’s just an IT guy.” It turns out that his mother was the executive assistant for the V.P. of sales at that company (just the person I needed!). And help she did. She made the introduction, and I got the appointment. Referral-selling in action. With that, I learned never to judge anyone or the contributions they might be able to make to the sales process.

Do Ask. Do Tell. Do Sell!

You don’t know who people know. Just ask. If you don’t ask, you don’t sell.