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Four Keys to Better Referrals

  • Before his death in 2012, Zig Ziglar was one of the world’s most popular sales trainers and motivational speakers. He was born in rural Alabama and grew up in rural Mississippi. He went from a small skinny kid with a funny name to leading a worldwide sales organization, based on his simple philosophy, “You can have anything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want in life, first.”

    Ziglar got his start in the profession of selling in 1947 as a door-to-door salesman selling pots and pans for the Wearever Cookware Company. He would ask a prospect if he could come and cook a complete dinner using his cookware. He would even buy the food. The prospect would receive a free gift if they invited two other couples to join the dinner party.

    At the end of the demonstration, Ziglar would attempt to make a sale and or set up another demonstration dinner at the home of one of the dinner guests. The prospect list was built from one prospect referring at least two additional prospects.

    In the beginning, Ziglar struggled in sales. He likes to tell the joke that he did sell things, “I had to sell my furniture, I had to sell my car.” It wasn’t until his mentor; P.C. Merrill took him aside for some coaching did Ziglar understand the power of the referral.

    Traditionally, a cookware salesperson would work a “territory”. They would load up their car with their products and travel to the first town in their territory. After they made all the easy sales, they packed up and moved on to the next town.

    Ziglar would get a room in town and “move-in”. He would show up and keep on showing up unlike other door-to-door salespeople had done before him. By staying in town longer than the typical salesperson, he got to know the people in town better. Ziglar’s extended stay would allow him additional contacts with valuable prospects who weren’t easily sold in the first demonstration.

    Ziglar went from barely surviving to become the company’s sales champion in just two years by understanding and harnessing the power of the sales referral.

    You want to get into the habit of asking for referrals right from the start of your new selling career.

    According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 84% of B2B decision-makers start the buying process with a referral. 

    The 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report indicates 83% of respondents trust recommendations from people they know.

    Heinze Marketing of Seattle surveyed more than 600 B2B companies in North America to learn more about the benefits of referral selling. Those companies with an active referral selling process are very satisfied with their efforts.

    • 71% report higher conversions rates.
    • 59% report higher lifetime customer value.
    • 69% report faster time to close

    That’s why you want to master the skill of referral selling. Referrals are the best leads you can get. Selling with referrals will speed up your sales pipeline and help you sell additional advertising more quickly.

    Here are Four Keys to Better Referrals

    Key #1 - Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral.

    For people to connect you to others that they know, you must be willing to ask for the referral. Don’t ask for a referral, ask for an introduction. Start by saying, “I was wondering if I could get your help with something … ”

    Key #2 - Always ask for a referral in person.

    Don’t ask for a referral in an email or through social media. You want to find out how well your customer knows the referral before you proceed. You need to determine if you can help the new prospect.

    Key #3 - Be specific about the referrals.

    Have a list of high-value prospects you want to meet. Try to determine if your referral source can introduce you to anyone on your list. Keep your referral source in the loop. They can help you decide how to proceed if at first, you don’t make contact.

    Key #4 - Make referral selling a daily activity.

    Ask for one introduction per day. That’s five introductions per week, 250 introductions per year! Take advantage of your entire network. Your past customers, industry connections, former and present colleagues, friends, family members, social acquaintances, friends of friends are possible referral sources.

    Never take referrals for granted as an “easy” sale. Remember that relationships are very personal and making deep connections takes some hard work. Referral selling is a skill and you can always improve.

    Bonus Key - Always send a handwritten thank you note to the referral source for the introduction. Little things mean a lot and they do make a difference.