A major hurdle in the selling process is that you must earn the trust of a prospective customer. When you have been referred by someone the prospect trusts, you inherit part of that trust. As a result, you stand a much better chance of getting in the door. You will also be much more likely to move through the sales process quickly, as the rapport building stage will be far easier, the objections will be fewer, and it will be far easier to close the sale. In fact, it is often said that a good referral is fifteen times easier to sell to than a cold call.
So how do we get more referrals? Referrals do not just happen. You need to commit yourself to creating a sound strategy for developing a “golden chain” of referrals. Your goal should be to reach the point where you never have to cold call again, where you sell by referral only. In order to build a pipeline of referrals, you must create it yourself. This means you must ask for them. That’s right — ask!
The most productive source of referrals is with your existing customer or prospect list. Your most likely source of referrals is your existing client base: those customers who represent the highest levels of customer satisfaction. Here are three great places to ask for referrals:
1. Ask for Referrals in Advance of Selling
Early in the closing process, before asking for the sale, you might say to a new prospect, “I believe you will find our product/service is exactly what you need, but I know it’s not for everyone. If you like what we have been discussing so far, even if you don’t need it at this time, would you be willing to introduce me to someone you know who does?” Provided you have built trust with your prospect, there is a strong likelihood they will agree.
2. Ask for Referrals After the Closing
The closing of a sale is often accompanied by an emotional high for your new customer. This is a wonderful time to ask for referrals.
As you are preparing to close the meeting, you might say, “Thank you so much for your trust and your order. I know you’ll be pleased. Let me ask you, can you recommend anyone else who might also need this?” When they offer a name, say, “Great, thank you. Could I trouble you for their phone number?” Make sure you get their contact information so you can follow up. Do not assume they will pass your name along or that the referral will make first contact. Your goal should be to leave with two or three referrals.
3. Ask for Referrals From a Satisfied Customer
If you have done a good job of servicing your customer after the sale, you now likely have a satisfied customer — one who will buy from you again and who represents a potential source of excellent referrals.
Contact your satisfied customer and begin the conversation by inquiring if they are happy with their purchase and if there is anything more you can do for them. If they make a request, then treat this as a customer service call. If not, say to them, “I’m so happy you are pleased. Can you put me in touch with anyone else who would appreciate the same experience as you are enjoying?”
The wonderful thing about highly satisfied customers is they often want their relatives, friends, and associates to share their experience. There is no better source of referrals than a highly satisfied customer, but unlike with a great movie or a fabulous new restaurant, don’t expect them to pick up the phone and start calling. It is up to you to initiate the referral building process. Remember, even if they were to recommend you to another, the odds of this person getting in touch with you are slim. The initiative must come from you. You must ask for the referral and you must follow up with that referral.
Finally, don’t forget to follow up with your referral source. Let them know you appreciate their trust and will do right by their referral. Send a thank you note, report back after you connect with the person they referred into you, and maybe even send a small gift or token of your gratitude after you close the sale. This little gesture helps continue to build trust.