“Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.”

-         Benjamin Franklin

While social media can be a valuable sales tool, not everyone who hosts a blog or posts a comment knows what they’re talking about. The often-misguided sales advice available on social media can sometimes send me into a spin.

For example, a recent comment stream said that you can ask for referrals from anyone you meet and that it’s often easier to get referrals from new contacts than from existing ones. That’s outrageous (and completely untrue).

Earn the right to ask. Referral selling is the most personal selling there is. Referrals are based on trust, which means you must earn the right to ask for an introduction. This is why your existing clients are your best possible source for referrals. With them, you have proven yourself. And you don’t even have to wait until your solution has been fully implemented.

You can ask for referrals:

  • During the sales process (after you’ve added value).
  • When your client has thanked you.
  • During the implementation process.

Existing clients are your best — and often most under-leveraged — source of referrals. Why are they the best? Because your existing clients:

  • Know first-hand the value of your solutions.
  • Can attest to the return on investment they’ve received from working with you.
  • Trust you (or else they wouldn’t work with you).

There’s no shame in asking for referrals. The above-mentioned social media “expert” continued with this appalling statement: “Don’t use the word ‘referral.’”

What other word would you use? Such advice is duplicitous, disingenuous and sleazy. Hiding your true intentions suggests that you’re either dishonest or that you believe asking for referrals is somehow pushy, sales-y or intrusive.

Let’s clear this up right now: Asking for a referral is not asking for a favor. Referrals are positive, powerful and forthright. Referrals are built on truth and integrity. Think of all the referrals you happily provide to your friends and family.

When we make a referral, we help everyone involved — including ourselves. We introduce a credible resource to someone we know and save that person valuable time and uncertainty. In addition, we become elevated in the mind of the person being referred.

Don’t be coy or beat around the bush. When you confidently ask for a referral, your referral source will know exactly the person you want to meet and gladly introduce you.

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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 www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.