Referral anyone?

The twelfth and final question in the Selling with Creativity would-you-or-would-you-not salesperson’s quiz: Do you ask a client at the end of the meeting if they know anyone who might benefit from your product, service or expertise?

For me, asking for a referral at the end of a meeting has never been entirely authentic. I feel the specter of the stereotypical salesman rising in the room when I ask. It’s certainly a trace of what-can-you-do-for-me energy. That said, I’ve never had a negative reaction to a referral request. It’s an easy question to brush off with a “let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” I also only made a habit of asking if the meeting was a really good one.

Yet, nearly every seasoned salesman I have engaged on the subject says yes – ask for a lead at the end of a meeting.

One said this on the topic:

“If you’ve had a good meeting with a prospect, and you’re pretty sure the hour they spent talking to you was useful; ask for a referral. Many people have friends in the industry, colleagues or former colleagues that they’d like to help. And just maybe they like you enough that they want to help you too. A positive response to your question qualifies as a great contact. Especially if you follow with, ‘Is it ok if I mention that you thought it would be useful for us to meet?’ Most folks will say, ‘Sure go ahead.’ Or ‘Let me send an email first.’ Ultimately, a personal reference is the best lead you can get.”

In addition, you now have two follow up opportunities with your prospect: 1) to confirm that the email was sent, and 2) to keep your prospect informed as to what happened with the lead they gave you.

When you call the referral and say, “Mark Savanovich over at Acme suggested that I might be useful to you,” she’ll probably answer, “Ah yes! Mark’s an old friend. He sent me an email and said you’d be in touch.”

That’s when sales is fun.

After mulling over the referral asking question, here’s where I come out:

1. The best time to ask is after you’ve closed a piece of business together, while there’s still a warm glow among all parties about a useful transaction. If you never ask for a referral any other time, always ask a satisfied customer.
2. Ask for a referral after a successful meeting. If you can tell that a prospective client found you useful and informed, then ask.
3. If you don’t get a referral don’t push; asking once is enough.
4. If the meeting was lukewarm or worse, which happens even to the best salespeople, I probably wouldn’t ask for a referral.
5. Honor a referral. It’s the warmest cold call you’ll get.
6. Use the referral as a reason to check back with your original prospect, to say thanks and to let them know how it went.

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5 Responses to “Referral anyone?”

  1. [...] A referral from someone the prospect knows will sometimes get you across, although many people will still [...]

  1. Tim – Sage advice. It has always worked for me.

  2. Newell Eaton says:

    Thanks Tim. I needed this reminder. Every time I’ve asked I’ve received at least one good referral

  3. Jonathan V says:

    Love the list Tim. I might also add:
    #7. Ask for a referral if someone suggested that you speak to them and they’re trying to figure out how to help you — in other words it’s a warm referral. For example, You (the prospect) agree to have a meeting with me (the sales person) because our mutual friend Doug (or Newell) suggests it, and because we both like and respect Doug (and Newll), we have a meeting to figure out something mutually beneficial. At the end, I ask you for the referral, and you’re interested in helping me.

  4. Dan Velasco says:

    Here is one step further which is typically done by one of the best agents in our Insurance Office. After all has gone well…..he asks if the time spent has been valuable…..asks if the client knows someone who would benefit from the info ….confirms the specific value and asks the client to call the friend and introduce him on the spot……. extremely successful and powerful.
    Best regards,
    Dan Velasco
    Licensed Insurance Agent; State of NH

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