by Mike Montague
When someone hands you a business card and says, “you should call this person,” it's not really a referral. Without more information, it is more like they're sending you on a cold call. Cold calling is way down the list of favorite prospecting activities for most salespeople, and sometimes that frustration can spill over to referrals.
Your goal should be to turn that tepid referral into a meaningful introduction. It may take a little more work on the front end but it will reap significant rewards on the back end. Just as you should qualify prospects at the beginning of the sales process, you should qualify your referrals as well. Ask some qualifying questions about the prospect, before you accept that business card or make contact to make sure this person would be an ideal client for you and to discover some insight into their problem.
Also, don’t settle making the first call yourself. Ask your referral partner if they will call that prospect first and let them know you will be calling. You can also ask for a face-to-face or phone introduction with all three parties. Introductions are much more effective than a simple referral, and almost 80 times more effective than cold calling random prospects. Why not take the extra time to warm up your cold calls.
By seeking introductions you're dramatically increasing your chance of making a sale. And, let's face it, we all want more sales with less effort.
Here are four other tips getting more referrals:
• Ask more people. When was the last time you actually asked for an introduction? Often, all clients’ need is for you to ask, and they will give you more referrals. Don’t forget about your friends, family, networking contacts, and business partners.
• Ask the people who say "No" too. Prospects who are not a good fit know just as many people as prospects who say "Yes." Never miss a chance to ask them for an introduction. They might really love your product or service, but just not have a need or the money at this moment. It might actually help them feel less bad about turning you down.
• Don't ask for “referrals.” Ask for an introduction. People often have a hard time coming up with a name off the top of their heads. So don't overwhelm them with a broad request or ask them to set a sales call for you. Instead, simply ask the person for an introduction to someone you should meet. It helps if you can be very specific about who would make a good introduction. Then perhaps later, it will turn into a sale.
• Use LinkedIn. Whenever you have a meeting on your calendar, check their LinkedIn connections first. If there are promising prospects, ask if that person can introduce you.
Click here to download our free whitepaper on 10 ways LinkedIn will increase your introductions.
Overall, taking a more active roll in building your Referral Tree will reap significant rewards —often with less work than you're doing now. You'll put yourself in front of prospects who start your relationship with a positive impression of you (thanks to the referral) and everyone is pre-qualified. You win. They win. And nobody wastes time they don't have.