Best Sales Practices For Driving Quality Referrals

BY Jessica Helinski
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When was the last time you brushed up on best sales practices in regard to referrals? Salespeople say that only 30% of their clients and prospects have given them a referral in the past year, according to SalesFuel’s Voice of the Sales Rep study. Sellers are missing out on opportunities in regard to generating referrals, which can mean big business. In fact, SalesFuel also reports that “reps can count on referred prospects to ultimately spend 20% more with you than the average prospect.”

"Referrals build a seller's trustworthiness and credibility—two cornerstones of effective selling," writes Mary Flahery for RAIN Group. “…referrals should be a part of a larger sales prospecting strategy. Like anything else related to prospecting, you should set aside time to plan and execute a strategy for generating referrals."

These sales practices can drive major results

One of the biggest referral mistakes sellers make is not being proactive. While it would be nice if referrals just fell into your lap, chances are, that's not going to happen (or at least often). This is why salespeople need to devote effort to both inspiring and encouraging referrals. Flaherty shares a list of small practices that can make these efforts both comfortable and efficient. 

To be what she calls "referral ready," sellers should actively tap into their network to encourage referrals. One way to do this is to create a referral program. Seek out colleagues and other professionals to coordinate efforts for referring clients. This not only opens opportunities for clients to come your way, it also adds even more value to a relationship. Just be sure that your program is in place and the details are worked out prior to asking. As Flaherty notes, “A referral is a boon to your company, and it costs nothing. However, clients won’t refer you unless they’re confident in your credibility and competency. To project professionalism to your clients, have all the steps of a referral program already in place before you ask.”

For tips on how to craft a strategic referral alliance, check out these pro suggestions.

Make it easy to refer you

Your clients, both past and present, as well as colleagues and business partners are busy. Don’t make it difficult or tedious to give you a referral. The fewer hoops one has to jump through to do so makes it more likely they will follow through. A great sales practice to implement is offering many opportunities to give you a referral, such as including a form on your website or a simple ask as part of your email signature. Sharing valuable content on social media and actively engaging with others also makes it easy to inspire referrals. You’ll keep your business top of mind while also nurturing relationships, two things that can drive referrals your way.

Another tip is to make sure your timing is right. Whether you’re reaching out to a colleague about that referral program or asking a past client, be conscious of timing. “Knowing when to ask for a referral comes with good communication,” Flaherty explains. “Consider pairing positive news with a referral request, particularly if you have success metrics to share. Coordinate with other departments of your company to know when to reach out.”

Be remarkable

While this is a sales practice you should always embrace, simply delivering a fantastic experience can help you generate referrals. Consistent efforts, valuable and reliable offerings, and standout customer service lead to loyal customers, who, in turn, will be ready and willing to sing your praises. As Flaherty points out, “If you nurture the client relationship, they’ll be more likely to talk about your company.”

With some thought, initiative and concentrated efforts, you can blow past other sellers and inspire others to refer you and your business. You’ll find that implementing these sales practices will drive new business, as well as boost your credibility and reputation now and in the future.

Photo by Lukas