Lately I've heard a lot of people talking about how to get referrals. No doubt about it, they're one of the quickest ways to fill your pipeline. They're definitely easier and less stressful than cold calling. They're more accessible, and there's less competition to close the deal. Knowing this, more and more sellers are asking for referrals as a primary approach to filling their pipelines.
But they aren't getting the number of high quality referrals they'd like or need.
The techniques we're hearing aren't working consistently.
That's because so often we leave it up to the client to guess who they should refer us to. If you really want to be successful building your pipeline with referrals, you need to take a step back and think about what types of introductions you really want.
Just any old referral won't get you your next hot prospect.
When you leave it up to your customer to figure out who they think would be a good referral, they won't consider all the qualification points you do.
They might not recognize that they're a great client because they're:
• focused on issues that fall within your offerings' sweet spot
• using your solutions exactly like you want other customers to
• in a specific industry or a certain size company
• treating you as a trusted advisor
Suddenly you find yourself with a referral that's less than ideal. It's too small a company, has a completely different set of needs than you address, or is outside your industry expertise.
Because the referral came from one of your top clients, you either have to figure out how to say "thanks, but no thanks" or follow-up then explain to your customer why it wasn't the best fit. It's possible you could actually waste as much time following up on this unqualified introduction as you would cold calling!
A poor referral from a great client puts you in an awkward position - all because you were trying to shorten your new business development cycle through referrals. Mediocre connections won't help you fill your pipeline.
No, you only want top quality referrals. Your desire is to get introduced to companies and contacts that really need your offerings and will want to talk with you. You're looking for new connections with the characteristics of your best clients.
Don't limit yourself to asking for referrals that are similar in size, industry, or region.
Broaden your expectations to seek introductions to people who'll implement and appreciate your offerings like your best clients do. Ask for contacts who'll want to work closely with you and welcome your expertise and recommendations.
To get referrals that fit such specific qualifications, you need to frame who is a great connection when you ask. Tell your customer what types of companies make the best match for your offerings.
There are two parts to framing your referral request.
1. Say, "someone like you who..." - and fill in the blank with the profile of your ideal referral.
2. Then add, "someone who needs ..." - and include the classic challenges, issues or needs you address.
What you're doing is creating a picture of your ideal referral for your client. Now as they mentally search through all their colleagues, they can easily determine which ones to recommend. You've taken the guesswork out of it.
Call me a referral snob if you will, but if we're going to ask for referrals, spend precious time following up on them, and then work them with due diligence, don't we deserve to get only the very best introductions? I sure think so!
About the Author:
Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, author of the award winning book Selling Against the Goal and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Ms. Lee is a frequent speaker at national sales meetings and association events.