Cold calling may still have its place, but it is often the least-loved sales approach whichever end of the phone you’re on. A ‘warm’ lead is far easier to convert to a sale – particularly for non-sales people. People buy from other people – which is why referrals make so much sense. Plus, some testimonials can be pretty persuasive: boby gift business My1styears managed to secure Sir Elton John’s endorsement with a bit of persuasion.
According to author Joanne Black, research shows that over half of referrals end in a sale. But how comfortable are people asking for them? Here are 9 ideas for making referral requests into a habit:
- Ask when it’s natural, advises Geoffrey James in this post. It should feel unforced, not awkward. Someone will only recommend someone they know and trust, so it’s most likely your initial referrals will come from friends and business partners with whom you’ve built a rapport.
- You don’t ask -- you earn. If you want to get a referral, do something unexpected – offer them a lead. “The best way to get is to give,” says Jeffrey Gitomer.
- Create your own virtuous circle by exchanging referrals within a trusted network and ensuring you have a means of thanking others for recommending you – by email, phone, note. (If client businesses don’t do referrals, ask if they’ll allow a case study or testimonial instead.)
- Be worthy – and distinctive. Seth Godin isn’t alone when he says “I’m far more likely to refer someone with a back story, someone who’s an underdog or relatively unknown.”
- Follow up on referrals immediately and build referral requests into your sales cycle, setting a weekly target. Window-replacement company Ventrolla includes a standard referral request form for happy customer, but also checks in each time it wants to call on them as a referee.
- Create a system or metrics to measure how referrals improve your profitability or cut costs. This will galvanise you to get more.
- Make it easy for customers to refer others. Referral tools such as Curebit automate and reward referrals for retailers. It’s less straightforward if you’re in B2B services, but still possible. Johann Taft created this form for recommendations (found thanks to this post, which has loads of tips on referrals).
- Plenty of advisors will suggest different stages in the sales cycle at which you can ask for a referral. But the only time it truly makes sense is surely after you’ve delivered stellar service or won the trust of the person you want to ask.
- Or follow this piece of advice: don’t ask for referrals at all. Instead, ask for an introduction to someone who’s been mentioned during the course of a conversation.