Best Practices For Leading With Referrals

leading with referrals

Want to snag a sales meetings more easily? Consider leading with referrals. As cliche as it may be, who you know can impact sales success. As Dave Shaby writes for Forbes, “If you can find people who know your target contacts, you’ll likely be on a fast track to landing your next sales meeting. All it takes is getting that mutual contact to reach out on your behalf to make an introduction.”

And data backs this up as well. Harvard Business Review found that 84% of B2B buyers start their purchase process with a referral. Additionally, peer recommendations impact over 90% of B2B buying decisions in some way or another.

 Tips for leading with referrals 

Shaby shares some advice for using referrals while selling. It can be tough to get that first meeting, or even have someone open a cold email. But, referrals can help, and here’s how.

Uncover mutual connections

Leading with referrals can’t even start until you discover contacts you share with the prospect. Mutual connections don’t need to run deep; simply familiarity with name and business can sometimes be enough to open lines of communication. But, for best results, seek out those who can actually vouch for your credibility and professionalism. And if they know and respect you well enough, asking for an introduction with someone shouldn’t be an issue. 

And Shaby reminds reps that this tactic depends on how well you nurture relationships. The more contacts you engage with regularly, the more referrals you’ll reap.

Ensure the timing is right

As SalesFuel has noted before, “Timing is important when getting referrals.” Being proactive and asking before the need arises is a best practice. As Shaby explains, “Before making contact, ask your referral sources to make the introduction. Should they say yes, you’ll likely enjoy a much better response rate.”

Timing also matters when mentioning mutual contacts to the prospect. Actually leading with referrals when introducing yourself will immediately grab their attention and spark an immediate connection. 

Keep up your reputation

Make sure that the referrals you do receive can hold their weight. Be the professional that others claim you are by consistently polishing your own reputation. “While a referral can certainly get your foot in the door, it’s probably followed by some due diligence on behalf of your prospect,” Shaby points out. Likely, the prospect will inquire around, whether it be among their own colleagues or a simple Google or LinkedIn search. Make sure that what they find aligns with the person others claim you are. In other words, as a past SalesFuel post advises, “Be referable. This means deliver on what you promise, when you promise it, and basically, be a good salesperson.”

Shaby shares a simple to-​do list to adhere to:

• Make sure your professional and social profiles are squared away.
• Consider your working history with your referral source.
• Protect and maintain your reputation in all that you do.
• Share and engage content that amplifies your authority and expertise.

Overcome a common challenge

Shaby also writes about the most common challenge that sellers face when leading with referrals: It takes time and doesn’t always offer a return on investment. While he admits this is an issue, it doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time. “…just like any investment worth making, investing time wisely today can pay dividends in the future,” he writes. “And it doesn’t need to take a lot of time when you take a systematic approach.”

To help guide reps, he suggests integrating the following into your usual sales process: 

  • Allocate 15 minutes of each day to cultivating referrals. To hold yourself to it, schedule it into your calendar as a must-​do task.
  • Once a month has passed, analyze the results of your work. Did you stick to your daily referral tasks? What were the responses?
  • Adjust accordingly in light of the month’s results. This approach can help you uncover the best process for you and your business. 

Leading with referrals can be an incredibly effective way to prospect and generate new business. The key is to be mindful about doing so. Following Shaby’s advice, and maintaining credibility and a stellar reputation, you’ll find your investments worth the effort.

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision-​makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.