The beginners guide to making referrals


When you are building a high-performing sales team, one of the key things to look at is the amount of referrals that not only the customer base grants you but how many times your sales team asks for them. Think it through, it is all very well you asking for referrals and nodding your head in agreement that referrals are a low cost, high value source of lead generation, but rarely/never are customers going to volunteer to refer you. You have to ask for them. The worst answer is going to be “No, sorry, I don’t know anyone”.

When is the right time to ask for referrals in the sales process?

There may not be a right time, but there is definitely a wrong time, but more so, it is down to the delivery of how you ask. A great time is when your customers have reached that moment we call the Eureka moment of using your product, that moment when the lightbulb in their head flicks on and they are feeling good about using your software – that is a great time to ask. A bad time is before you have conducted effective discovery. Too premature. However, taking this idea of a pattern interrupt, even if the prospect has said that your offer is not for them, ask them at that point for a referral or a recommendation of other businesses who might be more interested. They won’t be expecting this and it elicits genuine responses.

How do I ask?

Directly. “Would you happen to know of perhaps three businesses who might be interested in hearing from me?” Yes, I have put a number in there because then you enter into a negotiation. By hearing the number three, the prospect could easily say, “I don’t know three, but I’ve definitely got one I can introduce you to”. There you have it. Much more effective than asking generically whether there are any business opportunities in their network they could introduce.

Don’t say: “Do you have anyone in your network you can introduce me to?”

Say this instead: “Would you be open to sponsoring an introduction to perhaps three businesses in your network that would benefit a conversation?” Same question, better language, and better delivery.

Let us say you have an introduction. You are keen to tell your VP or your CRO or your CEO that you have this intro, but you have forgotten one key detail. Before you end the call, the critical question to ask… “what makes you think [Mr./Mrs. Prospect] that this referral would value a call from us?”. This helps with discovery, it makes your call into that referral a lot warmer because it gives context and relevance. Moreover, if the referee doesn’t know why they have introduced you, is it likely to turn into business? Perhaps not…

In your Sales team, your sales reps have to ask for the referral and ask why it is being made. Look for 1.5 referrals per customer, perhaps even look at ways you can financially incentivise companies to make introductions either as an Introducer in the first instance, then as a Reseller when you scale.

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