brokenprocessSuccessful salespeople don’t just happen.

You already know that referrals are the most effective and powerful way to attract new customers. But referral selling doesn’t just happen. It’s an intentional, proactive sales strategy.

A disciplined, measurable referral system delivers every time. But while referrals are our biggest competitive differentiator, most companies have only a hit-and-miss process for referral prospecting. There’s no strategy, no accountability, and no metrics. So sales teams miss out on the most powerful business-development tool that exists.

Here’s what it takes to create a referral-selling program that converts prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time (usually more like 70 to 90 percent):


Referral selling requires laser-like focus, commitment, and determination (just like anything else that’s important to you). It becomes your primary business-development outreach. Asking for referrals is proactive. You put a stake in the ground and commit to referral selling. You implement essential processes and enroll your entire company in the effort.

Sales Process

Getting referral sales shouldn’t be a bonus. It should be the way you work—an integral part of your daily routine. Start by documenting your current sales process. Keep it simple, and get your team to agree on the major steps. Then integrate asking for referrals into your sales process (i.e., when and how you will ask).


Decide what makes sense to measure—something easy to quantify that will prove your referral initiative is successful. You might set metrics around revenue generated from referrals, the number of new customers, the number of referral meetings set each week or month, the number of qualified opportunities that come from referrals (with revenue attached), or even new markets that you expand into because of referral opportunities.


We often assume that asking for referrals is easy. It’s simple, but simple and easy are not the same thing. Referral selling is a series of building blocks. The first step is to ensure that you are clear on the business results you deliver and that you know exactly who you want to meet. Most people won’t refer you just because you’re a nice person. Their reputations are on the line, so they need a concrete business reason to refer you.


Most of us aren’t completely comfortable asking for referrals. We worry that it’s pushy and intrusive to ask busy people for referral introductions, and that doing so implies we’re desperate or can’t do it on our own (not cool in our independent, driven society).

Asking for referrals isn’t pushy, nor is it a nuisance to those who believe your solution is valuable. We give referrals all the time—often without being asked. We tell people about terrific restaurants we’ve discovered, exciting books or movies, mechanics who got our cars working and didn’t overcharge, spas where we’ve had great experiences, or anything else we’ve enjoyed. It’s in our DNA to share great finds.

Are you ready to commit to referral selling, get every meeting at the level that counts, and boot your competition? Start by making referral selling your No. 1 priority. Without that commitment, nothing else matters.

For more on how to close deals by striking the right balance between technology and relationships, get your copy of my new book, Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal­ – now available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

Comment Here

When has a referral introduction helped you seal the deal with a major client?