Its not just who you know, it’s how you know them.

Guest Blog by Tibor Shanto

global networkNo one will argue the effectiveness of referrals in garnering new clients, but as with other aspects of sales, it is time for a makeover. While this makeover is not necessarily technology driven, let’s be trendy and call it Referrals 2.0.

Traditionally we would seek referrals from people we meet, or more proactively from people who have bought from us, the simple theory being that if I sell transportation services, and the shipper at Company A uses my services, he may know other shippers who could buy my services. Well the theory is only half right: My contact knows other shippers. But as for their propensity, readiness, or willingness to buy… that’s another story.

We have all faced situations where we’ve been told to call “Harry,” only to find out that Harry is “all set,” “not in the market,” or entrenched in the Status Quo Zone. So we add him to our list, nurture the connection, and one day this connection may (or may not) turn into revenue. You can avoid this by slightly changing your focus and leveraging core referral concepts. The key change is the source of the referrals.

The best referrals are those where the person contacted really wants to engage; this is a function of their current objectives and challenges in attaining them. To leverage this, it is much more likely that you will get better referrals from people actively engaged with that person in their environment.

In case of the shipper, the shipper is entrenched in his (and Harry’s) business, and is familiar with Harry’s aspirations and frustrations. Rather than a shipper friend at another company, you are much better off sourcing referrals from, say, a forklift repairperson. This person talks to shippers daily, and will know who is ramping up for new product to be shipped or raw materials to be brought in; he’ll also know who may be is frustrated with their current supplier, etc. The same can be said for people selling pallets, insurance, or other products. You are much better off working referrals with those who have a front-line view, than those who are doing the same function in a different environment.

While I don’t shy away from asking VPs of sales for referrals, I do much better working with recruiters specializing in placing sales professionals or CRM salespeople. They have a front seat view to potential changes in a company, and they have that view/knowledge well before traditional sources of referral do.

So take a few minutes to list all the people interacting with those you want to sell to, then reach out; and remember, it is a two-way street. Do your part to build the referral network from the ground up: connect your contacts with others within your network.

Tibor Shanto is a speaker, author of the award winning book about Trigger Events and sought after trainer. Called a brilliant sales tactician Tibor helps organizations execute their strategy through a combination of tactics, tools and skills. Find out more at
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