In the world of sales, generating leads and building a strong business pipeline are essential for success. One powerful method that can significantly increase your sales performance and help your career is harnessing the power of referrals. The first step to getting referrals is to identify the right individuals who you can have referral discussions with. These could be clients, friends, or influential people in your network. The goal is to choose five individuals who you can envision having a meaningful conversation about referrals and write them down.
Next, it's important to recognize the value transactions that have occurred between you and these individuals. Value transactions are when a salesperson provides value to a client. When a client acknowledges the helpfulness of a value transaction they are more likely to reciprocate. Reflect on situations where you have provided significant value to the five people you wrote down. This value can range from solving a problem to introducing them to someone who helped them achieve a crucial goal. Write down specific examples of these value transactions and identify the highest value you delivered for each person. If you have not provided significant value to all 5 people on the list you may need to change your list. With the foundation in place, it's time to prepare your approach. The leading cause for failure among salespeople asking for referrals is a lack of structure. Start the conversation by respectfully asking for a few minutes of their time. For example, if my client was named Ben the discussion might go as follows:
You: "Ben, if you have an extra minute I’d like to ask you about something important. Do you have that time?"
This approach signals that you value their time and sets the stage for a meaningful conversation by establishing the importance of your conversation. Once you have their attention, it's time to engage in a genuine conversation about referrals. Begin by acknowledging the value you have delivered to them in the past. This could be through a simple statement like:
You: "Hey Ben, I've really enjoyed working with you, and I know you've been happy with the results we've achieved together. I was wondering, would you be open to spending a few minutes brainstorming with me? I thought it could be valuable to create a short list of people in your network who might be a good fit for what we do. How do you feel about that?"
By referencing the value you've provided, you establish a sense of reciprocity and create an environment where they are more likely to be receptive to your request. Additionally, if they deny you it does not create any friction and you can thank them for their time without harming your relationship. To make the referral conversation more productive, it's important to guide the discussion while giving your client time to think. Instead of demanding immediate names, paint a picture of the types of people who would be an ideal fit for your services. For example:
You: "Ben, would it help if I described the three to four people who are usually the best fit?"
Chances are the client will be more than happy to take your suggestions. Give them time to think of the names and encourage them to write down the names as they come to mind. Afterward, go over the list with them and identify what you should know about each person and if you should talk to them.
Research suggests that many individuals miss out on up to 75% of available referrals and introductions. By not actively seeking referrals, potential customers may not receive the solution they need, or they may be served by someone less capable. Referral generation is a process that can have a profound impact on your sales performance and career. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can unlock the power of referrals and build a stronger business pipeline.