Top-Shelf Tip No. 31:

"The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers."

Shiv Singh

Why Your Team Isn't Asking For Referrals

No matter how long you've worked in sales, it's often tough asking for referrals. It's hard to put your reputation on the line and risk the other person saying "no." While you might feel vulnerable, the only way to get a referral is to ask. When you're leading a team of sales reps who shy away from requesting referrals, it's important to address the reasons why. Joanne Black, the founder of No More Cold Calling, notes that the only way to get past the reluctance of asking for referrals is to practice.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Black's top reasons why your team is reluctant about referral selling and how to address each issue.

Failure to prioritize. When referral selling becomes a priority, it becomes part of how you work. Black says many sales executives say they don't ask for referrals because they're working on other priorities. Is there something more important at work than generating qualified leads, getting every meeting with decision makers, closing deals and making money? Don't waste precious hours in your day on activities that don't deliver a return on investment. Put referrals at the top of your to-do list.

Lack of metrics. It's important to measure essential referral activities, which include the number of requested referral introductions, referrals received and meetings conducted. Decide your referral revenue goals, such as number of new clients, number of new projects or percent revenue increase. Set referral goals for your company and each member of your sales team.

No referral sales process. Don't just leave referrals to word-of-mouth. You must take a proactive strategy and integrate referrals into your sales process. You can tell your sales reps to ask for referrals, but this won't always translate into them doing it. Reminders and demands won't help. Asking for referrals must built into the process.

Lack of skills. When asking for a referral, many sales reps lack the confidence to ask the right way. They approach it as simply crossing another item off their to-do list. Even the most enthusiastic referral sources will think of this as a generic inquiry and get distracted by their own hectic schedules. Black says it's best to describe your ideal client and explain the business reason for the referral.

Personal discomfort. One of the biggest reasons your team isn't asking for referrals is because it feels uncomfortable for most people. We worry that we might imply our business is struggling or that we're asking for a favor. We don't want to bog down already-busy people with another task. And we worry that they might decline our request for a referral. To shift this mindset, Black encourages sales managers to establish metrics, integrate referral selling into the process and help reps learn the skills to ask the right way.

If you want a referral, you must ask. The best time is when a client says "thank you." Make sure your team seizes this opportunity with every client.

Source: Joanne Black is a leading expert on referral selling and the founder of No More Cold Calling, the country's No. 1 company for transforming sales teams into sales machines. Rise Global named Black America's Top Referral Sales Expert.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

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