Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

"Getting Your Entire Team Excited About Referrals"

Newsletter Oct 8, 2014

There are some serious procedural blockers to sales career advancement. Asking for the order is one and asking existing clients for referrals to other prospects is another. Asking for referrals can be an uncomfortable step for many sales people, and it can be as comfortable for non-sales people as a root canal dental treatment. It doesn't have to be that way!
People often make referral requests difficult and uncomfortable because they ask for them at the wrong time. Wait to ask for a referral. Look particularly for when the client is happiest, usually shortly after they've received the product or service.
It is also important to remember that the sales person shouldn't always be the person who has to ask for the referral. The sales person is not always the individual who has built the highest amount of rapport with the client. The person delivering the product or service is usually the person who has built the strongest relationship with the client. It is time to break out of siloed thinking, take a more holistic approach to your business and look for the hidden opportunities available to you – usually at no cost!
By developing a cross-functional team of sales, service, and product delivery people, you can develop a referral process that is a win-win for everyone. The key launch sequence here is to get everybody involved in thinking how to introduce a full team approach to serving the client. If what you are doing helps people, in their business or in their personal lives, you have a legitimate duty to do all you can to serve them. This includes those who know they need it and those who haven’t realized they need it, as yet.
Here are a series of tips that you can share with your team to help get referrals and build your network.
1. Remind the Customer of Specific Benefits
 Be poised to capture key information when clients tell you benefits they received during a phone call or general service call, so that you can bring up those benefits during your request for a referral. This is where sharing information is critical. If the whole team knows that these are the benefits for this client, then no matter who is talking to them, they can engage the client and suggest that the client may be able to help one of their friends also benefit from the things they have told you about.
2. Describe Your Customer Profile
Describe some other solutions that you have provided for other companies or organizations. It will help them start to think of other people. If we ask the client "Is there anyone else we can help with this problem", the client becomes totally confused. We have asked them to mentally capture their whole world at one time and try and sift and sort through that heaving mass on our behalf. This is like asking them to drink from the fire hose or asking them to boil the ocean – pick your metaphor of preference!
Don’t make the client work that hard! Instead, select out a smaller group and ask if there is anyone in that group who might benefit. Now the client has a range of faces appearing in their minds eye and they have a much better chance of coming up with some recommendations.
3. Identify a Benefit for Giving a Referral 
Identify some specific value that you can bring to the client when they give you a referral. Clients don’t want to be embarrassed with their friends and business contacts. A pushy salesperson, solely focused on their own selfish benefits, is not a very appealing business partner. The client needs to come bearing omiyage. Give them something of value they can bring to their contacts as a reward, some incentive for the contact to accept their name being given out to a total stranger – and even worse a stranger who is a salesperson!
4. Suggest They Already Know Someone 
If you know of a specific person or client that you would like to be referred to, provide your client with the opportunity to mention them. Just try to avoid putting the person on the spot. Instead, bring it up and give them time to consider the referral. This requires a degree of subtlety. Salespeople are supposedly skilled in designing questions, to which the only possible answer is in the affirmative. This is a chance to work on that design skill and create the mental synapse connect, to put you together with the client’s contact.
5. Ask for an Introduction 
Asking for an introduction is a good way to break the ice with the client and has the added impact of having someone who has benefited from your product in the room or on a call with the new prospective client. The best way to do this is face to face. It might be over a lunch or a coffee – a relaxed atmosphere where there is no pressure. A bit like a blind date in a way. The prospective partners can size each other up and decide if they want to meet again later.
Just constantly remind yourselves of the benefits of asking for the referral and then just ask for it. The worst outcome is the client says no. That is not a relationship or game breaker. The existing client relationship is still in place and a day later, any discomfort about being asked for a referral is forgotten anyway. 
If you are operating from the point of view of wanting the best outcomes for the client, and thinking that in the client’s success lies your own success, then there is no reason to be shy about trying to help others. Hold your head up straight, be confident, smile and ask for the opportunity to serve others, as you have served your current happy client.
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