Recently I spoke about getting referrals as an important part of improving or growing your b2b sales opportunities. After I mentioned this, I get a couple of questions about how to improve their referral process.
Since referrals have been known as the Golden Chain for Sales Success, it has probably been the least understood sales growth process available.
Look the referral process can only begin when you start it – by asking for a referral. Most of your customers know plenty of other business people who could use what you have to offer. The key is to get to them before your competition does.
Enter the referral.The referral is a great tool or process since you can get immediate credibility depending upon who is referring you. So, let’s take a look at the best practices for using (and getting more) referrals…
- The First Rule of Referral Generation
Make sure you have a happy and satisfied customer. Duh. An unhappy customer will not refer you – unless it is their number one competitor. The key to the brass ring of referrals is to out perform the competition in every aspect of your interaction with the customer. Take time to develop a business relationship based upon performance – no politics allowed here. When customer know you are true to your word and are performance centered – then they will happily refer you to their friends and associates.
- How You Ask can Make a Difference
Fold the asking for a referral with a performance review is the best practice. After showing how your performance matched or exceeded their expectations, then begin the process of asking for referrals. Again, use questions to help them think of others who would benefit from your level of expertise and service. Be humble, yet strong in requesting their help in finding new business opportunities – assuring them you will continue to serve both the customer and the referral at the same high quality standards.
- Use All Your Sources
Most b2b sales people only ask for referrals from their customers. However, experience has shown you can get high quality referrals from two additional sources – prospects who like you yet for some out of their control reason cannot use your product or service and other associates or joint venture types. This final group is an interesting group. May times they have the ear of higher level executives and will refer people and companies they feel will deliver at a high level. Thus, think about the professionals (lawyers, CPAs, Consultants, Business Advisors) who regularly influence top level decision makers. They can truly help you grow.
- Evaluation the Strength of Your Referral
All referrals are not created equal. Therefore, you must use common sense and evaluate the level of urgency or credibility passed to the referral. There are the just the name and phone number group – cold referral; the name and phone number with permission to use referrers name – lukewarm referral; name, phone number with name of referrer and an introduction to basic information – warm referral; and finally the one we really want more of – name, phone number, personal introduction and sharing of specific improvement, success story or return on investment measures – HOT, HOT REFERRAL!!! When this last is teed up for you get started fast with the questioning model of sales since they will be more likely to open up and share vital information.
- Learn the Best Methods of Approach
The best method includes continually connecting yourself to the referrer and how you have worked with them through the years. The important thing here is to link success stories – than can be verified by the referrer (because it will happen) – as an example of the quality of your work with customers. Use the credibility of the referrer as often as you feel is necessary to help the referral feel comfortable about sharing things with you.
- Keep Your Source Informed of Progress
Again the most important part of the process is to keep the referrer informed as to how you are doing. If they have supplied you with a several referrals then it may be appropriate take the referrer out to lunch and share all your progress with each referral. * I did this with a customer who had given me three names. When I meet him again, he was so pleased with the progress (and feedback from his friends) that he gave a list of fifteen more names of executives – which lead to a substantial increase in business. This last point is more about using common sense and basic courtesy than any kind of b2b sales tactic. It still pays to be polite.
There you have six ways to improve the referral best practices of things to do in growing your b2b sales success using referrals as the key driver of results. Begin the process today. Remember to always do your best work with existing customers and they will share their valuable names and more importantly their reputation to help you grow.