THE ART of getting referrals
Aug 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Ted Tate
Getting referrals is beyond the most common method taught new sales personsas a means of lead procurement. It is an excellent source of business. Talkto any veteran salesperson, and he will assure you they ask for referralsevery time.
Now, walk up to any salesperson in your organization and ask to see hislist of prospects, just the referrals please. Can't seem to find them?Perhaps they were either left at home or in the car, or maybe he ran out ofpaper and used them for the office football pool.
The truth is, this is one of those situations where everyone agrees that itis a great idea. Unfortunately, most lack the skills to get them on aregular basis. They get some rejection because of that and windup usingother lead procurement methods.
Most salespeople ask, "Do you happen to know anyone who wants to buy_______?" Of course, they usually don't, so the salesperson decides that itjust isn't working and quits. Here are some tested methods that have workedfor professional salespeople for years:
The common denominatorWhen I've worked with salespersons on sales development programs, Iidentify the common denominators that make a good prospect for thatbusiness. I then turn them into what are often called "memory jogger" or"trigger questions". For instance, when I was selling commercial securitysystems, I knew that new business owners, businesses who have relocatedrecently and people who have had a crime problem are all good prospects. Mysalespeople were trained to inquire about (after closing and completing thesale) recently relocated businesses, people with crime problems, and anynew businesses. For a company selling wireless phones, however, salespeopleand people on the go were two common categories of good prospects. Oursalespeople asked about the possibility of any friends being in sales orsimply always on the go. For people selling office equipment, companiesthat are in the process of moving are always prospects, and another commonprospect are companies doing very well and expanding their facilities. I'msure my readers can come up with a few more.
Although most people don't know anyone who wants to buy anything, they doknow other people. A salesperson must ask in terms to which people canrelate in order to get the memory flowing.
The address bookOnce in a while, people can't think of prospects for you even with the"memory jogger" or "trigger" questions. After some blank stares in responseto questions the salesperson can ask, "Fred, where do you keep telephonenumbers for reference? An address book? Could you get it please?" Let theprospect thumb the book completely for each trigger question.
Some salespeople feel that a new customer might object. They rarely do ifthey perceive you as creditable. If they have just purchased from you, thenthey should have positive feelings and want to share their greatopportunity with friends. People object only when the salesperson is rude,has a bad attitude or is otherwise offensive. To have made the sale in thefirst place, you have probably already built a relationship upon afoundation of trust and mutual benefit, and if you have done a good job fora client, he should have no problem helping you get more sales.
The rewardOften, companies and salespeople will offer a reward for a prospect namethat becomes a buyer. This is perfectly acceptable, provided the reward isnot excessive. It is very important to keep in mind that most people youare doing this with have only recently signed up. Offering some extravagantreward might offer the impression that you are making big bucks on thesale. Worse, they may start wondering if they just paid too much.
If you can, make the reward something connected to your business. Anextended warranty, a free service contract or additional product all workwell. Alarm and phone companies in the above examples used a period of freemonthly service for new clients.
The unsaleHow many times have you called on a prospect only to find after talkingwith them he or she was not really a potential customer. I have gotten alot of miles out of so called "dead horses" with a conversation along theselines:
ME: Well Jack, it looks like this isn't for you. Is that a fair statement?
PROSPECT: Sure looks like it. It's a shame you came all the way over here.
ME: Thanks Jack, I appreciate your concern. Perhaps you could do me a smallfavor.
PROSPECT: I'll try, what is it?
ME: Jack, put yourself in my shoes for just a minute. If you were me, whodo you have listed in your address book that I should be calling on?'
It doesn't work every time, but most people, with a little encouragement,will get out an address book and search for you. If they come up with somenames I then contiue:
ME: Jack, of all those names, who would it make the most sense to call onfirst?
PROSPECT: (Gives me a name)
ME: Do you have his phone number?
ME: Could you please dial him and tell him I'll be stopping over shortly?
Through all of these methods, I have been introduced to people whom I neverwould have called up on because they were next to unapproachable. In mycareer, I've made some very big sales with this one technique. With thecareful practice and implementation of these methods, hopefully you andyour sales staff will do so as well.
Good luck and good selling!