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Referrals: What’s Stopping You?

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When I started my company, I polled salespeople across industries, asking, “Why are referrals so great?” Referred clients are presold, these salespeople told me, because someone the referral knows and trusts has vouched for them.

  • Common sense, not common practice. Yet few run a 100-percent-referral business. This conundrum has always puzzled me. So I asked the next logical question: “Do you have a strategy to build your business through referrals, including goals, a plan and a system for tracking and measuring results?” Silence. Turns out referral-based sales may be common sense but not common practice. I eventually discovered two primary reasons companies aren’t using their most powerful sales tool:
  • It feels uncomfortable. Asking for a referral feels like asking for help. And for many of us, asking for help isn’t easy. We worry it will imply our business is struggling. And asking an already busy person to do something might be intruding on a relationship. Unlike other business-development strategies, asking for referrals is personal.
  • It’s a skill. People don’t know how to ask in a way that gets demonstrable results, so many ask for referrals by saying, “By the way, if you know anyone who could benefit from my services, please pass my name along.” But even with the best intentions, most clients will think no more of such a generic inquiry once he or she is distracted again by a hectic schedule.

The next time you have a satisfied client on your hands do your business a favor: Take the leap, gently probe to learn more about your client’s contacts and get that referral.

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 Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.