As salespeople, most of us have had it pounded into our heads that, once a sale has been completed, we need to ask for referrals. All we need to do is a good job for our clients and then ask if they know anyone who could benefit from our products or services. If we follow this procedure, we will easily and rapidly grow our businesses.
Depending upon the seller, that referral question could take various forms. For example:
- “Ms. Client, do you know anyone who could use my products or services?”
- “Mr. Client, do you know anyone I should be talking to?”
- “Mr. Client, do you know anyone who could use my help?”
- “Ms. Client, if you happen to run across someone I could help, would you mind giving them one of my cards?”
But no matter the specific language of the question we’ve all been taught to ask, the results are usually the same: few high-quality referrals. All these questions — the ones that are supposed to rapidly grow our businesses — require our clients to do the work for us.
In virtually every case, we are asking our clients to come up with the names of people they know despite the fact that our clients don’t know who is a really strong prospect for us or all of our capabilities. We have put them on the spot by asking them to come up with great referrals for us with only seconds to think about it.
Not surprisingly, most of the “referrals” we get — usually nothing more than a name and phone number — prove to be no more qualified than if we had pulled them randomly out of a the phonebook. In short, they are time-wasters. Certainly, one here or there may turn into a client, but for most of us, the pickings are pretty slim.
So, if asking your client for a referral to someone they know hasn’t worked very well, it’s time to approach referrals differently. Instead of asking a weak question such as “Who do you know who might be able to use my products or services?” try doing the hard work of finding out who your client actually knows and then asking for a direct introduction to that particular person.