The Secret to B2B Referrals: What Works for You?

BY Tim Londergan
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The more I learn, the less I know. That’s my lament about B2B referrals. True, having a customer provide contact information for a new prospect is terrific. In fact, these leads are meant to be savored. Freely offered referrals are rare. Therefore, they must be cherished and handled with the greatest respect and admiration. However, as cautioned in another SalesFuel blog post, these leads may be distracting from your primary sales goal.

Referral marketing generates the most cost-​effective leads.  Subsequently, it is more efficient than traditional prospecting with repeated emails, phone calls and message after message after message.

Do B2B referrals require split loyalty?

Rightly, you work hard, and you earn every opportunity that falls in your favor. That includes these manna-​from-​heaven gems that may pull you from your sales strategy. Clearly, your focused sales plan has limitations on what you can reasonably service. Further, you need to maintain your reputation as a salesperson worthy of B2B referrals. And herein lies the rub. Do you continue with the sales plan in place, or do you adopt a B2B referral framework that allows you to play in two arenas at once? How many masters can you serve?

B2B referrals. So many solutions, so little time

Years ago (2015), Forrester (paid access) predicted that one million B2B salespeople would lose their jobs to self-​service ecommerce by 2020. Threateningly, they reasoned that the self-​informed customer would be convinced of their needs and could order their selection online; that the sales agent would become unnecessary. Consequently, no need for B2B referrals. No third-​party recommendation required.

Then, Harvard Business Review (2016) touted the results of social selling as a panacea to vendors. Accordingly, sellers should invest a few hours of their day to curate their profiles on social media. Additionally, they must collaborate with their social marketing counterparts. The rationale is that when salespeople start social selling, they will meet their prospects where the buyers are spending most of their time.

Eventually, I studied guidelines from sales veteran and author Jeffrey Gitomer. He emphasized the patience and preparation that it takes to be worthy of converting a referral to a sale (money). He offered 8.5 rules along with enough fear and self-​doubt to make you wonder if you should get out of bed tomorrow!

Next, is the company-​wide referral program. These schemes offer two-​way incentives and are backed by sales support personnel who assure that no worthwhile lead slips through the cracks. The B2B referrals are ingested and filtered through a maze that guarantees their validity. Shame on the salesperson who cannot make the conversion.

A framework you can work with

Finally, I stumbled on an easy-​to-​follow and well-​reasoned B2B referral framework. This structure can be self-​directed, personally adapted and informal. Further, this referred leads program sets the stage with simple groundwork task. Then, it is accompanied by a four-​step process to ask for referrals. (Apologies to Jeffrey Gitomer who thinks it’s rude.)

Several of the steps in this framework are intuitive. First, you must work with a recent buyer and agree on the value that you have provided. Next, with your excellent rapport, assure the customer has a strong knowledge of your merchandise line. Now, you can ask if there are others (be specific) in their network who could benefit from a simple discovery call.

The authors recommend consistent follow-​up and confirmations along the way. Additionally, they offer email templates, sample scripts and pro tips to help you communicate.

Nothing is easy

Certainly, adopting a referral framework requires you to commit to a routine and has the risk of asking too much too soon. Experts warn that you must use caution and be patient as the rewards do not come to those who are ill-prepared. 

Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash