Referrals are an often-ignored part of the sales process, which is a bit daft, really. A referral is a ready-made lead for you, has ‘trust’ written all over it from an existing client, is more likely to convert to a sale and has a longer sales life span. So why is it missed out of the strategy? When did we become all shy?

Using referrals to gain leads
Let’s take a look at why a referral is a necessity. You need sales. You spend time and cash sourcing leads. A referral is an oven-ready lead. It’s not necessarily a qualified lead, your client isn’t doing all the work for you, for goodness sake, but it is a good lead nonetheless and worth following up. It’s perhaps one or two steps along the sales process so it’s saving your time. It allows you to build a rapport more quickly. And it’s more likely to get you a new client. In fact, four times more likely to get you a new client.

We know referrals are golden. So now what?

Firstly, let’s not get too awkward about it. Referrals are given all the time and you probably don’t realise. If you’re in a meeting with a client, someone else walks in and they introduce you and explain what you do and that you’re working together – that’s a referral and you wouldn’t have even cringed once.

Let’s assume, though, that the client is happy and nobody is walking into the same room, so you’re going to have to get over yourself a bit and actually ask for a referral. I know I’ve lost a few people here, it sounds like something you’d rather avoid. Bear with me and I’ll give you a few tools.

When do you ask?

Don’t ask before you’ve even delivered your service or product. Wait until they’ve received it, or been on their trip or had time to use it, but still at that sweet time when they are excited by it.

A little story for you: I was invited to change some service suppliers in order to save some cash on my home bills. I agreed and signed up. The rep contacted me after I’d signed up, but before the service had begun and said that they’d saved me money, and now could I return the favour by referring others. I applaud the fact that they asked, I really do. But it was a little too early, I hadn’t experienced any saving yet. In fact, it all went a bit wrong and I wouldn’t recommend the service (though the rep was lovely). If I’m being honest, I felt a bit pressured as it was on the phone too. I’m a big believer in the phone as a sales tool, but sometimes the Britishness of me squeals and this felt a little too full-on. I felt a bit used. So, we need to combat that with whatever way we move forward in our plan to gain referrals.

But first, let’s not shy away from it.

Diary to ask. Put it on your planner. If you don’t ask, you are less likely to get a referral. It amazes me how many people neglect this step, yet are 100% sure their client is happy with their service and probably would recommend them. So why not ask? Formalize it. Your sales leads will increase. But work out the best time, just after they’ve come back from their trip? Just after they’ve received the product? When they’ve had it a week? Look at what it is you are selling and from their point of view, when they are sure they’re delighted. That’s when you contact them.

How to ask

This depends on what you already have set up in gathering feedback. Do you send a customer satisfaction questionnaire out? Do you simply call and ask for feedback?

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