We all know getting referrals is a proven tactic to help drive more sales. Certain industries, like real estate, automotive, professional services, and home improvement industries rely very heavily on referrals. Other industries, are less referral-heavy due to the complex nature of prospect qualification and needs analysis.
There is a much-used statistic attributed to sales guru Dale Carnegie that states “91% of customers say they’d give referrals but only 11% of salespeople ask for them”. That statistic is alarming on many levels. The problem is that many sales people feel uncomfortable asking for a referral. Others do it naturally, effortlessly and successfully. But this is not the norm. So what’s the right approach? The answer probably depends how the sales person incorporates referral requests into the sales process. It actually doesn’t have to be an overt action nor does the sales person have to wait for a transaction to be completed, which is a common practice.
We argue that the process should be ongoing, start earlier in the cycle, and should not be limited just to customers or prospects, but rather, should embrace your entire network. For example, an automotive sales person probably has several hundred personal and business contacts in their cell-phone phonebook. Virtually all of these contacts have a car or know someone with a car. How do they nurture those contacts to drive more car sales? What if the agent simply sent out once a week a new car care tip? Or a new car review? At the end of each transmittal, they should list their name, their company, and links to learn more – and most importantly – invite the reader to share the content. That’s almost the equivalent to a referral. Here are some other tips you may find useful:
- Educate – Regardless of who you have in your network, everyone appreciates receiving well-thought out educational material. Sales people should consider sharing articles, videos, Facebook® posts, and so forth that may be useful to their network. In real estate, an agent may want to segregate his network into lists of home owners, renters, investors, and other buying classes and send them general information on home maintenance, re-financing, tax preparation and so forth – anything that you think would be helpful, you should consider sharing. But share appropriately. It’s no use for example sharing in formation about rental options to someone who has just bought their first home.
- Testimonials – Thank the people who have given you testimonials and share the testimonial with others. In some industries, this could give your sales a major boost. “A whopping 97% of IT professionals say they rely on peer recommendations and ratings/reviews during the buying cycle”; so taking care to share your successes are a good way to invite referrals. But do it professionally and tastefully and in a manner that protects the integrity of the person who gave the testimonial.
- Share fun(ny) content – Everyone appreciates humor; it is a good way to have people remember you and keep you top of mind, never share anything that makes fun of any particular demographic – always stay professional.
- Encourage others to share your posts – “43% consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends on social media”; based on this statistic, it is clear recommendations are a major influence on the buying decisions of a large consumer segment, so encourage sharing. Your brand and your name will be associated with the content, elevating your chances of influencing someone to join your network or to bookmark your webpage.
- Get on the phone! – Reach out to old friends, past clients, prospects, just to say “hello”. Ask what they’re up to, if appropriate ask about their families, extend a genuine interest and it will be reciprocated. Take time also to remind them of what you do, what challenges you face, ask for help if appropriate, and let them know you’re there if they need you. And never be afraid to ask if they know someone that could use your services
- Think through it. – We recommend that you take methodical approach to working your contact base. Segregate contacts into categories and create independent campaigns for each with a schedule and the kind of content you’d like to deliver. For example, if you have homeowners as a category, you may have a Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter tune-series. If you’re in the technology industry, you may have a series based on major product releases, other industrires may have a schedule based on well-attended industry tradeshows or events. Be creative and be diligent. It will only work if you’re consistent.
- Use the right technology. – Tendant is a relationship optimization platform that helps you establish yourself as an expert in your network. You can download it for free from the App Store® or Google Play® store or find out more at Tendant.com.
One thing to keep in mind when reaching out and asking for referrals is that there is a delicate balance between spamming and informing, so be sure to put your contacts on a schedule and segregate them into appropriate categories and stay compliant with messaging and email regulations.
Regardless of your method, or your past approach, integrating referral requests, whether directly or indirectly, will help your business grow. Take a methodical and well-thought-out approach and you’re surely going to see a long term impact on your business success.