Referrals don’t just happen, at least not at scale. Yes, occasionally a well-served client will mention your company to another buyer, and your team will get a sale without any real effort. But how often does that happen? Unless your company has a systematic, disciplined program in place to ensure sales reps are asking for referrals from every client, your team is leaving money on the table.
Why do you need disciplined referral sales strategies? If phones were ringing off the hook and sales reps were inundated with emails and social media requests to do business, then maybe (just maybe) referrals wouldn’t be that important. I admit this scenario has been repeated in several booms over the last 20 years. But the inherent problem was that salespeople took orders from anyone and everyone. Then when the economy tanked, they were let go. They didn’t know how to sell. They just filled requests.
Outside of rare business booms, sales reps always encounter these top two challenges:
- Getting meetings with decision-makers at the level that counts
- Generating a consistent stream of qualified leads
And there are more …
- Radio silence from prospects who don’t return messages
- Balancing client work with prospecting
- Sales processes that get longer and longer with more buyers
- Intense competition
- Economic downturns
- The social media time suck
Referral sales strategies address these challenges and more.
The business case for a referral program
Salespeople and executive agree that when you become a referral-selling organization, sales reps:
- Get every meeting at the level that counts with one call.
- Are pre-sold: Prospects know who they are and want to talk to them. (How great is that?)
- Have credibility and the prospect’s trust, which can be really tough for a salesperson to earn.
- Shorten your sales process: Sales reps spend more time with customers and less time prospecting.
- Ace out the competition: Your team scores meetings while your competitors are still trying to identify the real decision-makers.
- Save money: There are no “hard” costs to referrals — just your team of referral sources out there selling for you.
- Convert sales prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time (typically more than 70 percent).
Referral selling is the biggest competitive weapon of any sales organization. No other marketing or sales approach comes close to the results you get with referral sales strategies, because decision-makers will always take meetings that are suggested by sources they know and trust. Yet, 95 percent of companies haven’t implemented a systematic, disciplined referral program with metrics, skills and accountability for results.
The formula for sizzling referral sales strategies
Wouldn’t it be great if sales reps were asking for referrals every single day? The only way to make that happen is to put a disciplined referral program in place.
Referral selling is simple, but it’s not easy. It can’t be an afterthought. It must be a strategic initiative for your company — one that is driven by sales leadership and includes three essential components:
1. Referral strategy development
Referral selling becomes your No. 1 outbound prospecting strategy and integrates into your sales process. You commit to measuring both referral activities and results, and you hold sales reps accountable for both.
2. Skills building
Asking for referrals is a behavior change. Reps learn how to define the business reason for a referral and how to ask for referral introductions to their ideal clients.
Salespeople forget 87 percent of what they learn during training if there’s no reinforcement after implementation, no assessment of skills learned and no measurement of success. Sales managers must coach and reinforce referral skills to ensure it becomes a habit.
Where to start?
Current clients are your best source of new business. They know first-hand the value of your products and services, and the expertise your sales reps can provide. Well-served clients will introduce your team to qualified prospects who agree to meetings with just one call. Those clients will sing your team’s praises and “sell” your company to exactly the type of prospects salespeople want to meet.
But most clients won’t think to do it unless they’re asked. And your team probably won’t do that unless it’s part of your sales process.
What are you waiting for?
Are you all in with referral selling, or just trying it on? Are you telling your team to ask for referrals? Or do you unequivocally believe you have a process in place to bring in a steady stream of referral leads that will drive revenue, save your job and position your company for sales success?
Referral selling is simple, but it’s not easy. However, when you implement a disciplined referral program, build referral skills, and establish referral metrics, accountability and rewards, you’ll secure immediate results. Your team will quickly get meetings with their prime prospects and boost their conversion rates to more than 50 percent! Then those new clients will refer them to other ideal clients, who accept their calls and call them back. That’s how referrals scale and open the door to sales success.
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