Referral Selling – your modern day sales weapon, part 1

There’s nothing better than a referral – that incoming phone call on a quiet morning when your prospect list is looking as old and dusty as a first edition of Moby Dick. “Hello is that Nick? John Murphy recommended I give you a call, Nick. I’m very interested in the services you provide and getting the same results as John did. Can you talk now?”

How good is that? Someone asks for you by name, and already wants to do business with you. They are asking for your time! They are being polite, and eager. Sigh. Sales nirvana!

Essentially, what you have just done is to skip past all the awkward questions and feelings in the initial stages of the sales cycle that prevent us from selling!

The only problem is, referrals are rare. Imagine if you could manufacture the referral process and take control of this area of your selling strategy to the point where you could rely on referral business on a regular basis. How would that impact your sales targets? The good news is you can – you just need to nail your referral strategy!


In Part 1 of this article, we will talk about DIRECT (if you don’t ask, you don’t get…)
In sales, it is very easy to overcomplicate and overwork things in our mind as we prepare for conversations. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best policy. In terms of referrals, this means asking a simple, direct question: “Do you know anyone who may like to use our services?”

Salespeople have a strange fear of asking direct questions, but the truth is, the simplest way to ensure clients refer you is to be direct! It won’t always be the right solution, but it’s important not to overcomplicate things.

A few years ago, I booked a taxi to take me to the airport, and the driver picked me up from outside my house. “Nice house,” he said. “How much did you pay for it?” I told him, and he asked, “Cash or mortgage?” Again, I told him. It struck me that although I’m not necessarily comfortable answering those kind of questions, it didn’t stop me from answering. In fact, the entire journey was taken up discussing my home purchase. Along the way, I remember thinking that the driver needed to learn some diplomacy. But it also reminded me that when you ask a direct question, people will answer you. Often when it comes to client referrals, people just don’t ask that key question. It’s an invisible barrier that in sales you need to overcome. Take comfort in the fact that being a sales professional who asks for referrals requires no skill or specific training – it’s about making a habitual change, not a skill change. Put simply, you need to get into the habit of asking for referrals.

Entrepreneur and star of “Dragons’ Den”, James Caan, recommends that you take your direct question one step further and actually be more specific. He claims he always ask for a particular number of referrals. I would support that, as I think there can be too many woolly questions in the sales process.

Here’s how they compare:
1. “Do you know anyone who could use our services?”
2. “Can you please give me three names of people who you know would benefit from the services we provide?”

Which option do you think would offer a better response? The second one, of course. The second question is focused. If you want something, you have to ask for it – politely of course. People might only give you two referrals, which might be 100% more than they would have done if you had asked a general question. The point with this type of referral selling is to be direct, specific and persistent.

Within this direct questioning, it’s important to ask for a referral in a way that makes it a closing question. Remember, you’re looking to seal a deal – one that will make you money! So treat it as a mini sale.

The deal is to get hot leads via a customer. You will be better positioned to do that when you have recapped the value to someone – in the same way that you would close any other sales conversation. One element that’s particularly useful here is getting people to talk about why they liked or enjoyed the service or product you provided. The direct approach is still a key element, but people are far more likely to respond positively once they have spent 90 seconds saying how great you are. Psychologists call it ‘mental conditioning’ – helping the mind become predisposed to an environment by putting them back in the moment.

One Final Tip: Ask your customers to ring up their contacts direct for you – it’s stronger that way.
They can even bring you into a conference call or meet up together at an industry event for coffee.

That’s all for now folks. Part 2 INDIRECT will be with you next week!

Happy Selling!

(There is much much more on DIRECT referral selling in our Natural Sales Evolution Book. Call us now and we may send you a free copy!)

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