If you think referrals don’t scale, you’re just doing it wrong.

Sales leaders often tell me that referral leads are their most qualified, most convertible leads. Then in the next breath, they tell me referral business doesn’t scale. Before I got really annoyed and was ready to blast them, I took a closer look at what scale means, anyway. Of course, there’s more than one definition.

  • There’s the noun scale (“a machine for weighing”), which comes from the Old Norse word meaning “bowl” or “scale of a balance.”
  • There’s the scale that means “one of many small thin plates that cover the bodies of some animals (such as fish or snakes).”
  • As for the scale that means “the size of something,” “a series of musical notes,” or “a range of numbers,” it comes from the Latin word scala that means “ladder” or “staircase.”
  • Scale is also used as a verb as a synonym of “adjust,” as in scale back, scale up, or scale down: In the past few decades, scale up (“to increase the size, amount, or extent of something.”)

What jumped out for me was the derivative of ladder or staircase from scala. Scaling a referral business is a series of steps that must be taken. Scaling requires a reliable system and a plan to meet increasing customer demands without increasing costs.

As Jason Albanese, co-founder and CEO of Centric Digital, puts it:

 Scaling is a replicable system for delivering goods and services allows businesses to increase their customer base without having to increase their overhead at the same pace. By contrast, the traditional growth model has fostered a vicious cycle of inefficiency—a company gains a few new clients, so they hire more people to service those clients, adding costs at nearly the same rate that they’re adding.

So, how can sales organizations scale their lead generation without adding more people? Stop cold calling and start asking for referrals … at scale.

How Referral Business Scales

 Full disclosure: I was searching for proof that not only do referrals scale, but they’re instrumental in scaling a business. The question is: How in the heck can you increase your customers without hiring more sales reps or investing in more technology?

Answer: You build a referral system that is documented and adopted by salespeople.

How do you ensure adoption? Scaling referrals needs to be predictable—which means there must be metrics linked to KPIs. It means your sales team must build skills in referral selling, be accountable for results, and have these new behaviors coached and reinforced.

In other words, you begin to develop a referral culture. You move referrals from happenstance to happening all the time.

Scaling Referrals: A Proactive Process

Referrals don’t just happen, at least not at scale. Sure, sometimes a well-served client will mention your company to another buyer, and your team will get a sale without any real effort. But how often does that happen?

A referral program isn’t just one more initiative to introduce to your organization. Referral selling is a complete shift. All sales leaders and their reps know referrals yield the best business. Yet, less than 5 percent of organizations have a disciplined, measurable, and systematic referral program.

Referral selling is simple, but it’s not easy. Here’s what it takes:

  • A short, specific written referral sales plan
  • Written weekly referral selling goals for your company and for each salesperson
  • Referral selling expertise for your entire organization
  • Metrics to track and measure referral activities and referral results
  • Company and individual accountability for referral results

If you’re part of the 95 percent who rate referrals as their best sales leads but don’t have a referral sales plan, you’re leaving money on the table every day and allowing your competition to outmaneuver you. Stop believing the myth that referral business doesn’t scale. I’m here to tell you it does.

With a proven, disciplined referral system, your team will:

  • Get meetings with qualified prospects with one call
  • Convert prospects to clients more than 50 percent of the time
  • Penetrate prime accounts with personal introductions
  • Consistently increase deal size by more than 10 percent
  • Ace out the competition and seal the deal

With those numbers, you can more than double your sales team without adding to your payroll, because your customers and network become your extended sales force. That’s how you scale referral business … and your company.


Want to learn more about referral selling? Check out my acclaimed referral sales system.