A referral is a powerful thing. It’s a personal recommendation from a trusted source, which can be a make-or-break factor in a customer’s decision-making process. From a sales perspective, a referral is a gimme, a slam dunk, a home run, or any other sports analogy that comes to mind. Or at least they should be.
As sales have shifted to a digital landscape referrals are increasingly difficult to find. The digital world has both opened doors to wider markets and imposed new barriers for salespeople. Business once sealed with a handshake is now concluded by clicking the “Leave Meeting” button on a Zoom call.
Referrals are still out there. People are still asking their friends and colleagues for advice. It is now up to the sales rep to take the initiative if they want a consistent pipeline of referrals.
Referrals Start With Trust
If you own a Tesla, and you knew that your brother was looking at electric cars, you might recommend he look at the Model S if you had a good experience with your vehicle. You might not be an expert, but you know he values your opinion. Your customers are no different. They want to help their friends and family, especially if they know they are actively trying to address an issue or reach a goal.
The challenge for sales reps is getting customers to the point that they actively suggest your product or service to their friends and colleagues. Make no mistake – referrals revolve around trust – and building trust is an active process that never stops.
In the not-so-distant past, businesses worked with the same vendors for years. They did this because they trusted the people that they worked with, and anytime someone would ask if they “know a guy” the answer was immediate.
Today’s global marketplace has opened the door for new competition resulting in transaction-based sales approaches that make it difficult for reps to build an “I know a guy” type of relationship, much less close business and retain customers.
This isn’t an indictment of the system, merely an acknowledgment that a different approach is needed to overcome these new challenges. Instead of focusing solely on closing at all costs, reps that take an Other-Centered® approach to sales can both close more business and build lasting relationships that generate referrals.
4 Tips To Get More High-Quality Referrals
Simply closing business does not guarantee referrals will walk through your company’s door. Cultivating referrals is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. It takes time and diligence to get customers to the point where they will champion your product or service.
Here are four tips to get high-quality referrals into your team’s pipeline.
Put the Customer’s Needs First
Most sales organizations will tell you that they put the customer first. While some certainly do, most are focused on pushing their product. Being Other-Centered is actively choosing to serve the customers and their needs.
Far too many salespeople try to force a square peg into a round hole, instead of just walking away from the deal. Walking away from a deal isn’t easy, but it can be beneficial. Most notably it shows that reps acknowledge their customer’s needs and priorities above their need to hit their quota or land a big commission. That acknowledgment in turn generates trust.
When the prospect trusts your reps, they may point people in your direction, even if they aren’t currently using your company’s product or service.
Be an Expert
It should go without saying that reps should have a firm understanding of what they are selling. Other-Centered salespeople focus on bringing value to every conversation and being an expert in their field. Reps should be able to think beyond the nuts and bolts of their product. In many ways they are virtual sherpas, leading the prospect to the mountaintop.
Serving as the guide, they must be able to see challenges or obstacles and know when it is time to turn back. Deals are lost and trust is degraded when so-called “experts” push a solution on a customer knowing that it cannot help them accomplish their goals.
Increased global competition has made it more important than ever for salespeople to understand the landscape they are traversing. When your team is full of experts, referrals will take care of themselves.
Van Gogh didn’t finish his first work of art only to decide that he had mastered his craft. He constantly focused on his work. Being Other-Centered requires active work and constant practice. Each conversation is like a brushstroke. The relationship is the final masterpiece. Reps will not be an expert from day one, but with time, they can master their art.
As sales leaders, we must give reps the latitude to learn and be there to help them avoid falling back into a close-first mindset. We have to be their biggest cheerleaders despite the outcome of a specific deal. It is easy for us to celebrate when a deal closes, but when was the last time you celebrated a rep creating a relationship or earning trust?
Whether the client is initiating the conversation, facilitating the introduction, or the rep plans on name-dropping, time is of the essence. Above all, the person being referred might already be in the decision-making process, and your team is late to the game.
Additionally, even as much as a quick connection via email shows the referrer that you value their time and recommendation. This is one area you do not want reps to drop the ball because it could dictate whether they provide additional referrals in the future.
Once a connection with the referral has been made the referrer has done their part. From this point on, the rep should drive the conversation. Although the conversation shifts away from the referrer, a best practice is to keep them in the loop. They don’t necessarily need the gritty details of the deal, but a short call, text, or email as the deal progresses generates trust and provides feedback on the quality of the referral.
Build a Referral Pipeline With ASLAN
At ASLAN, our goal is to equip your team with the skills and knowledge to compete in the ever-changing sales landscape. Referrals can be a tremendous addition to your sales pipeline and with a little fine-tuning, high-quality referrals can become a major source of leads for your sales team. To learn more about cultivating an Other-Centered sales team, schedule a consultation with our training staff today.
ASLAN teaches sellers an easier, better way to gain access & influence unreceptive customers, by eliminating the hard sell.