Referrals: Successful Salespeople Always Ask
Salespeople regularly complain that they don’t get enough leads. Most salespeople expect their company to engage in marketing activities to generate sales leads. This seems like a reasonable expectation. Yet effective marketing strategies have shifted to multi-touch nurture programs that take planning a strategic content approach before they hand off marketing qualified leads to sales. Owners and sales managers are caught in the middle between sales and marketing to respond to the questions: Where are the new sales leads? And who should generate leads for sales?
Selling by Referrals
There are many distinctions between good salespeople and great salespeople. Great salespeople have a habit of asking for and getting referrals. And they do it consistently. In the wise words of hockey legend, Wayne Gretsky, “You will not get 100% of the referrals you do not ask for.”
In training and coaching salespeople, I often hear about the referrals they get when one of their clients changes jobs and they get introduced to the new company and win work. When I question salespeople and sales managers how they track referrals, I rarely get a response that demonstrates they have a process to proactively ask for referrals from current customers let alone track referrals. Not regularly asking for referrals is a big miss for an effective lead generation program. A referral starts as a warm lead from a trusted partner. Exactly the type of lead every salesperson dreams of.
When to Ask for a Referral
Like every important step in your sales process, getting the sales team to ask for and track referrals will provide insight into your business and sales results. Consistently asking for referrals provides positive sales results. You have a relationship with your customers because you are doing the right things to help them produce outcomes and goals for their companies.
Salespeople may be intimidated about asking for referrals, If your customers are delighted with your services, they are pleased to introduce a trusted supplier and partner to people in their network. So, when to ask? Even in these challenging economic times, customers across all verticals still need print, mail, and marketing solutions to keep and win new business and support their sales efforts.
I train sales teams to regularly ask referrals.
- At a closure meeting for a new project.
- When a customer contact mentions a new manager in a different department.
- When a customer shares the results they achieved with the materials and services you provided.
- When a customer indicates there are changes coming.
- When you are asked to provide a quote.
All of these are perfect times to ask for a referral. If you ask respectfully, customers are happy to provide referrals.
How to Ask
My coaching to salespeople is to powerfully ask for referrals. The distinction is not asking your contact as if they are doing you a favor or indebted to you because you bailed them out. Rather, ask powerfully by acknowledging the results you have helped them achieve. If your firm has printed materials to assist with a product launch, powerfully asking the marketing contact would mean saying something like, “ who else in your network could benefit from marketing services to support product launches or acquisition programs?” “Who else in your network could benefit from effective sales support to train their sales teams?” And don’t forget to also ask them to make an introduction to the contact.
By reinforcing the results of the services provided, not the actual printing and mailing you performed, you emphasized to your contact how you helped their business, and their network contacts will have similar business needs. People in marketing will likely refer you to other marketing professionals. They will refer you to people in roles similar to theirs and often at the same level or in more senior roles.
Practice how to ask:
- Reinforce a specific value delivered to your customer. Salespeople should ask about the results of the service you provided to craft a powerful statement.
- Make a statement about extending service to others within or outside your customer’s organization or their network.
- Ask for names of qualified individuals.
- Clarify next steps and thank your customer. Will they email the contact and copy you? Will they call the contact and tell them you will be calling them?
Good to Great
Great salespeople define a plan to ask for referrals as part of their daily and weekly tasks for effective sales planning. Salespeople who are good partners to your customers, take the time to understand their customer’s business goals and the results of their print, mail, and marketing programs. This knowledge enables them to powerfully ask for referrals to other decision makers.
Set the stage to add referral asking and tracking into your sales process. Warm sales leads lead to more sales.
Input for this piece was provided by Mark M. Fallon, president and CEO, The Berkshire Company:
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at email@example.com.