Some sure-fire ways to secure more worthwhile referrals

September 13, 2010
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The definition of “referral” will surprise you and at the same time make you understand why you don’t get as many as you expect. The definition of “referral” is: risk.

Do you ask for referrals? Do you get as many as you think you should? Why do people hesitate when you ask? Why do people not give them to you or put you off?

Why do you hesitate to ask? Maybe you feel awkward asking because you really don’t feel that you've earned the referral yet.

Here are a few questions to ponder if you didn’t get what you asked for:

Did they like you enough?

Did they trust you enough?

What did you do to deserve it?

Did you deliver more than promised?

Did you serve them at the highest level possible?

What did you do that was memorable?

What did they risk by giving a referral to you?

Giving a referral is a risk. Is your customer willing to take that risk by referring you? Are they willing to risk a friendship or relationship they have by referring someone to you?

Or more powerfully stated, when are they willing? At what point in your relationship with them would they be willing to risk a friendship or relationship they have with someone by referring them to you?

Here are a few deeper questions to ponder if you didn’t get what you asked for:

What have you done to both earn the trust of and reduce the risk of your customer? If “not enough” is the answer, then that’s probably the amount of referrals you get.

Reality: You are not going to get great (real) referrals without a high level of comfort, a history of performance and deep level of trust.

Referrals are the highest percentage sales call in the universe. Would you rather have 100 cold call leads or one referral? Just checking.

Referrals are not magic, but they sure make selling seem like it. You make more sales when you have more referrals.

Everyone wants referrals, but few are willing to do more than ask to get them — and some salespeople don’t even do that.

There’s a way to get more referrals than you thought possible, but there are some hitches, one of which is hard work on your part.

What’s the best way to get a referral? Don’t ask for them; earn them!

Picture this: You walk into your best friend’s house and say, “Mary, could you do me a favor? I’m looking for some new friends and I was wondering if you knew anybody like yourself who you could refer me to and, oh, by the way, I’m going to be selling them something. And if you wouldn’t mind doing an introduction for me, I’d really be a happy about that. And, oh, by the way, thanks.”

Doesn’t that sound ludicrous? Doesn’t it seem imposing? Doesn’t it border on rude? Your friend may even agree to do this for you, but in the end, when it comes time to put up or shut up, the list will be very short. Maybe even empty.

And you can be an even bigger jerk by calling them up, pretending to like them, and saying, “Speaking of referrals, how about those friends I asked you about the other day?”

What I have just described for you is what 99.9 percent of all salespeople do when they ask for a referral. And it is obvious from the above example that they are 100 percent wrong.

Anyone who asks for a referral doesn’t get it. A referral isn’t something that you just ask for. A referral is something that you earn. Oh, sure, you can ask, but it makes everyone feel awkward and will often destroy a budding relationship.

Which brings me to my point: When is the best time to ask for a referral? After the risk has been eliminated.

Sales managers tell salespeople to ask for referrals as soon as they make a sale. And sales managers are wrong. After the sale has just been completed is the worst time to get a referral. You haven’t delivered. There’s no relationship yet. There’s no proof of service yet. And trust is tentative.

Start them thinking by asking, “Mr. Jones, if we deliver and exceed your expectations, who else would you insist get this?” Let him answer. Then ask, “If we are phenomenal, would you be willing to call a few associates and set up a three-way lunch?”

Now the referral outcome is in your court. All you have to do is perform the way you promised. All you have to do is deliver.

Asking for the referral too early is playing the “greed’ card.

Asking when you have eliminated risk and built trust is playing the “money” card.

My measure of success as a salesperson has always been by the number of unsolicited referrals I receive. That’s the report card of selling: people referring you behind your back; people referring you without asking; people calling you and wanting to buy.

How many unsolicited referrals do you get?

Free Git-Bit: Want a method for exchanging referrals that actually works? It’s called a blueprint for referral alliances, and it’s yours by going to www.gitomer.com and entering the word BLUEPRINT in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail salesman@gitomer.com.

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