Sales professionals are taught to ask their customers for referrals. Some do it well, some do it poorly, and some don't do it at all.
I recently bought some term insurance from someone who's been in the business for over 30 years. (I should point out that a good friend referred the agent to me.) After we finalized the details of the policy, he did what I expected him to do - he asked me for the names of other people to whom I could refer him for business. But how he did it made all the difference.
My agent followed a smart, effective three-step process that can be used by any sales professional in virtually any industry:
Step 1: Connect with your Prospect on LinkedIn early in the Sales Process.
The insurance agent requested to connect with me on LinkedIn early in the sales process; specifically, he requested the connection immediately after our first phone conversation. I accepted. This connection made my Contacts visible to him, and gave him plenty of time to complete the next step.
Step 2: Pre-select the Referrals.
The agent took the time to review my Contacts, and carefully select those in a certain geographic area (his sales territory) who would likely have a need for the insurance products he offered (executives and business owners).
Step 3: Be Specific with your Request.
A Best Practice in asking for referrals is to be specific: Instead of simply asking your customer, "Can you think of anyone else that might benefit from my offering?" sales reps are told to ask, for example, "What other (technology executives) or (business owners) do you know, who may benefit?"
The theory is that if you can help your customer to focus their thinking, you'll be more likely to get a referral. My agent took this a step further; he used our LinkedIn connection to identify specific prospects by name, and presented me with his carefully pre-defined list of names. This served two advantages:
- It focused my thinking, thus making it easier for me to identify referrals for him
- It increased the number of potential referrals that I'd give him. (If you make a general request, you may get one or two names. If you present a specific list of 10 - 12 referrals, you're likely to get 3 - 4 referrals.)
Asking your customer for referrals is a great way to fill your sales pipeline with qualified prospects. Following a process that capitalizes on your access to information, pre-qualifies likely buyers, and focuses your customers' thinking will increase your chances of getting more high-quality referrals from your customers.
Do you make it easy for your customers to give you referrals?
Do you use a smart, repeatable process?