Fishing for Referrals

Referrals are an excellent source of new business but most salespeople don’t deserve to get them! Yes, you heard me right. Why do I feel they don’t deserve them? Because they do nothing to earn them.

Too many salespeople are like waiters. You know the ones. They show up at your table to take your order, deliver it and then appear once during the meal (when your mouth is full) to ask how you’re enjoying it. They reappear again to clear off the table, and then one last time to deliver the bad news (the bill). For this they expect a 15 percent tip! Simply because they did their job, no more, no less.

Some salespeople simply do their job, no more, no less, and then expect the customer to be eager to provide them with the names of hot prospects. Dreamers!

If you’re going fishing for referrals, you’d better bait your hook with exceptional service to your existing customers and clients.

Use the Law
The Law of Reciprocity states the more you give someone, the more he or she wants to reciprocate. And the best way for a satisfied customer to reciprocate, apart from giving you even more business, is to give you referrals.

The Law of Reciprocity is alive and well in many areas. Very few people haven’t received a set of personalized mailing labels from a charitable organization. They hope you’ll “reciprocate” by sending them a donation and many people do.

Get Started Today
So the first step in earning referrals is to make sure you provide service that is above and beyond your customer’s expectations.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this concept. It takes a real effort to develop a personal customer service plan that makes you stand out over others in your field.

Once you have developed a plan, expect to spend the rest of your sales career making it work for you. The referrals will quit coming when you quit being better than your competition.

Help your customers exercise the Law of Reciprocity by asking them to reciprocate. Ask for referrals.

Don’t be Afraid
The reason that 95 percent of salespeople don’t ask for referrals is the same reason they don’t ask for the order. They’re afraid of rejection, afraid of getting a “no.” A “no” doesn’t kill, it just hurts.

You can minimize the chances of getting a “no” by asking at the right time. Two right times are after your customer has acknowledged that you have been going out of your way to be of value to them, and after you have just provided another above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty service to your client.

Let’s assume your client has just thanked you for something you’ve done for them. You can say something like this,

“Thanks, Bill, I appreciate the fact that you notice the things I do for good clients such as yourself. There is one thing that you can do for me in return. If you could provide me with the names of two people, like yourself, who could benefit from my service, I’d really appreciate it.”

Or perhaps you’ve just done another extra service for your client. You can say something like this,

“Bill, I hope that this service is of value to you. (Wait for a response.) If it is, there is one thing that you can do for me in return. I’d like to provide this type of service to even more people. If you could give me the names of two people, like yourself, who could benefit from my service, I’d really appreciate it.”

Be Careful
Just like with fishing, be careful you don’t jiggle the hook too soon. No need to be pushy. Don’t expect the names right then.

You might say to Bill,

“If any names pop into your mind over the next few days, would you jot them down and I’ll give you a call next week. I’d really appreciate it.”

Now when you call back, all you have to ask is, “Did any names pop into mind?”

If you’ve earned the referrals, you’ll get them.

Don’t be Greedy
You’ll notice that I only asked for two names, not ten. Why? Because, if every person to whom you gave exceptional service gave you the names of two people to whom you also gave exceptional service, by the time you repeated the process twelve times, you’d have over 4000 clients. Remember the TV commercial for shampoo where two people told two people who told two people, etc. Like compound interest, the power of two can give you more prospects than you can reasonably handle.

Select two, five, ten, or however many customers you want to cultivate. Decide on what you can do to stand out over other salespeople in your field and then put your exceptional service program into action. When your clients recognize that you are truly better than the others, exercise the Law of Reciprocity by asking for two referrals.

Your objective is to get two good referrals from each of your key clients. Service these new prospects the way you serviced your current clients and you will build a solid business on nothing but referrals.

Post-referral Follow-up
Make sure you provide a follow-up report to the person who provided you with a referral. Tell how the referral turned out and say “thank you” whether or not a sale was made. This reinforces your relationship with your contact and increases the chance of getting more referrals.

Failure to report back may make your contact decide that you didn’t appreciate the referral. That may kill any further incentive to provide additional leads. In fact, it might even cost you further business with your contact.

A simple thank-you card can go a long way towards getting more referrals and building your image as a sales professional.

Reel ’em In
So reel in referrals by fishing in the right spot — in a school of satisfied customers who are so delighted with your service that they want others to get “hooked” as well.

Good luck and good fishing!

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