Asking for referrals: where’s your head at?

JMR Sales & Consultancy Ltd.

Delegates that I train or mentor often have difficulties in asking for referrals.

They feel that it is asking too much from their relationship.

They feel uncomfortable because they are asking for ‘a favour’.

I suspect that this is a particularly British problem.

I have heard that our American counterparts have no such trouble. Maybe some of that is to do with culture or confidence.

Either way, here is a tip which has helped countless delegates of mine overcome this unnatural and unhealthy fear.

A sales process starts with relationships at the very earliest stages; introductions, developing empathy, preliminary questioning and so on.

But once the sales process has been completed there is still more to do to leverage the arduous work and both parties’ investment after a trading relationship has been successfully started.

If the product or service you have delivered has fully met or exceeded your customer’s expectations, now is the perfect time to ask for a referral.

It is perfect timing because, by transferring the trust that you have established with your customer to someone that they refer you to, the process can be substantially quicker with the referred client than with someone who comes into the Sales process at the top of the pipeline.

The chances of success are also substantially greater because of the recommendation of the third party.

So the timing is great, the service is great and it makes great Commercial sense because of the improved chances of success.

You could say that this is a Serendipitous Sales Storm but that is too much of a mouthful for anyone!

So what is stopping the request for the referral?

A: The Account Handler’s Mindset! How can this be changed?

Actually, it is not that difficult, but it normally involves delegates looking at the challenge from a different perspective.

I ask them when they last went shopping and bought something that they thought was really excellent value.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just past, that is normally not too difficult for them to recollect. Remembering these buying experiences makes us feel good about ourselves.

“I bought a vacuum cleaner / camera / Home Insurance at x% off and the service was great”.

Did you tell anyone about it?

“Sure. I told my mates in the pub / Friends at a dinner party” etc. When we buy well or great a great service, it is human nature tell other people about it.

It is similar when we get bad service, but we prefer to look smart in the eyes of our peers than to look as though we have been duped.

Mind Change

So if we remember our own positive purchasing experiences and then relate that to what we are asking our happy clients to do, we realise that it is natural for them to want to tell other prospects about our great product / service, they just need to be channelled into the right opportunity.

In other words, by asking for referrals into companies which fit in with our ‘sweet spot’, we are giving our customers a chance to look good because they bought so well.

And that shouldn’t be difficult to ask for.

Jonathan Ratcliff
JMR Sales Consultancy