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Why Top Sales Professionals Thrive Earning Referrals

This is a guest article by Larry Coco, President and Founder of Coco Training & Coaching

The month is winding down and you are frantically trying to close every deal possible. With order processors on high alert, you try and squeeze out all you possibly can. The month closes, and it’s time to wrap up since the journey starts all over again in the morning.

When the results are in, the cold hard truth is you may have come up short of expectations and the sale pipeline was not filled to an acceptable level. Not only that, but monthly activity was light. The management team notices billed orders were generated largely by current client upgrades with some net new business.

You question what more could have been done to meet established targets, and then the light bulb goes on: in your best months and quarters, referrals were a big part of your sales funnel and got you to the promised land.

It is time to ask yourself if you have an effective referral process in place. Thinking this way is promising, as research tells us that 41% of top sales professionals’ business comes from referrals.

Creating an Effective Referral Process

This process is hard work, but very rewarding. Perhaps it is time to develop a referral process that the entire sales organization can embrace. Keep in mind that clients are more willing to provide those valued referrals only when they know we will make them look good. Please ask your clients and listen intently to their responses about what motivates them to share key relationships. My bet is that Trust and Credibility will often be heard.

#1 Plant the Seed in the Discovery Stage

It’s all about taking a more proactive approach. In the discovery part of the sales process, you will do well to thank your prospects for their time and begin planting seeds in those earlier stages.

For example, you can say: “Steve, I enjoyed our meeting today. I wanted to ask that when we have the opportunity to do business together and you are a highly satisfied valuable client, is there a chance you would be willing to share referrals with me?” 

Believe me, when you shake your head yes and smile, your prospect will follow suit. 

#2 Differentiate Yourself in the Propose/Solution Stage

Another approach can occur during the propose/solution stage.

You mention: “Susan, we look forward to earning your business. Just know that when we create a partnership, I will want to come in each quarter and do a formal account review finding ways to make your organization more productive and efficient. Are you ok with this?”

Rest assured that your prospect will view you in a positive manner and respond accordingly.

This approach positions you as being special and different (a competitive advantage) since it removes the notion in the buyer’s mind that you are there for a commission check and will soon be going away. 

#3 Ask for the Referral

You have now earned the business and a seamless install takes place.

It is time to say: “Mike. Two things. First, thanks so much for the business, it is appreciated. Second, know that the bulk of my business comes from referrals. Also, know that if you are kind enough to send anybody my way, they will be treated with the utmost professionalism, courtesy, and respect. Please keep me in mind”.

Personalize the Experience

Personalized touches allow us to stay connected to our clients, build stronger relationships, and show our clients that we are there for the long haul. They are that important.

Examples of personal touches include:

  • A handwritten thank you card
  • Refer customers to your clients
  • LinkedIn endorsements
  • Formal account reviews
  • Invitations to educational seminars, open houses, and ‘Lunch and Learns’
  • In-person updates on industry articles and business trends

Best Practices for Sales Managers

Imagine the power of installing a solid referral process for your sales force. Make it part of the written sales job description. Discuss this with your major accounts (your people) and sales candidates before making an offer of employment. Build your culture.  Inspire your people. Create a metric and expectation that each sales professional will secure at least 5 referrals each month. Share how important this initiative is for the individual, team, and company. Drive this in sales meetings and recognize those for a job well done. Celebrate good behaviors. Also, be sure to embed this metric into your CRM tool so that this effort can be tracked and measured, resulting in Best Practices that quickly become part of your repeatable sales process. 

Let’s say your present sales headcount is 10. How much could these 50 leads each month affect your ability to hit those sales targets in a consistent fashion rather than the ‘roller coaster ride’ that will simply wear you out? 

A Proactive Approach

In summary, the best sales professionals across the country take a proactive approach with the almighty referral. If you are or know a sales executive sitting at 79% of the plan year to date and not asking for referrals (some think it is awkward to ask, not sure what to say, believe a customer should call in with a referral), it is time to change the mindset realizing too much business is being left on the table. They may have a more vibrant sales funnel and be a 120+% performer operating with more consistency, direction, and purpose. In other words, a Higher Calling.  How will that change your life? Visualization is key.

Referrals are all about earning the right to build more meaningful relationships. The sales cycle is shorter. Revenue and gross profit levels will be higher. They are as good as gold. It’s Go Time.

About Larry

Larry Coco is an accomplished transformational senior-level executive with a strong track record of Recruiting, Training, and Executive/Team Coaching. He has worked for many years in the IT, Information Sharing, Document Management, Logistics, Financial Services, and Manufacturing industries.

Larry is highly experienced in the formation of strategic plans and skilled in the areas of creating and driving key processes to achieve improved results. 

Larry Coco

Want more tips from Larry Coco?

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Last updated: 05 Nov 2021

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