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15 Ways to Get Referrals

Written by Mary Flaherty

Referrals are among the top ways sellers get leads and new business, but many struggle with generating them consistently.

We know our buyers rely on colleagues, associates, and friends to recommend providers. So when a prospect comes to us via this route, some of the work is already done for us. Referrals build a seller's trustworthiness and credibility—two cornerstones of effective selling.

Read: The Power of Trust in Sales

While most sellers recognize the power of referrals, they don't know how to tap into their networks to proactively generate sales referrals.

This happens for a number of reasons. Many sellers are uncomfortable asking for referrals. They either don't want to appear "salesy" or desperate for the work. Or it might be insecurity—they're not sure if they actually deliver value and benefit to their clients.

That's why we put together this list of 15 tactical tips for generating more referrals.

But before you get started, make sure you're doing the following:

Be referable. To make referral marketing a proactive part of your lead generation activities, you need to actually be referable. Ensure that you deliver what you promise, when you promise. Your clients need to be able to speak to the value you provide.

Don't rely on accidental referrals. It's important to get clear on who you want to attract as clients and how your network can help you get referrals to those clients.

Don't wait for the pipeline to dry up. Put a sales referral process into place now to drive high quality referrals consistently so that you're not left scrambling when the pipeline stops flowing.

Here are 15 ways to get more sales referrals in no particular order:

1. Create a referral program with complementary providers to exchange referrals.

Be sure you only include providers in this network that you'd be comfortable recommending to your best client or best friend.

2. Recognize and thank your referral sources. 

This could be with a simple phone call, email, or even better, a handwritten note. The important thing is to express your appreciation. You'll also encourage additional referrals this way.

3. If you have clients who don't refer, create another way for them to recommend you (e.g., case study, testimonial).

I once worked for a large organization that prohibited written testimonials and discouraged referrals; however, I was able to provide recommendations by phone for vendors with which I worked. Two vendors I worked with took advantage of this opportunity and closed several deals by having select high-value prospects speak with me.


4. Make sure your current clients know about all the products and services you offer and how you help.

This way, they can either refer within their company or to others they know. Too often sellers assume their clients know more about them than they do. If you're a market research firm and a client uses only your online survey research services, for example, make sure they know about your intercept interview service or focus group capabilities.


5. Add a link to a form on your website for referral submissions.


6. Be remarkable; remind clients why your company is special. 

Give them something (good) to talk about.


7. Inspire confidence. 

It's risky referring someone—what if it's not successful? You can inspire confidence in your referral sources by letting them know that 80% (or whatever) of your business comes from repeat customers.


8.Offer a referral commission.


9. Provide valuable content your referral sources can share with their network.

An invitation to a breakfast or lunch seminar or webinar on an industry topic, research briefs, an article about a regulatory change or industry trend, etc. Make it something special for them to share.


10. Treat the vendors and suppliers with which you do business as partners. 

Make sure they're aware of who and how you help.


11. Update your LinkedIn profile and stay engaged with your contacts regularly.

Read: 15 Ideas for Selling with LinkedIn

12. Create a list of buyers you want to work with. 

Check out their LinkedIn profiles to see whether you're connected in any way. If so, reach out to them via your network—whether it's an individual, a company, or a group.


13. Treat your clients as partners, too. 

Let them know you view them as a strategic partner, and tell them you hope they'll do the same with you. Create formal channels to share referrals.


14. Give a referral. It's one of the best ways to get one in return.


15. Ask for referrals.

You’ll get a lot more referrals if you ask for them. As you’re completing a project with a client, simply ask if they know anyone who would benefit from something similar.

Summary: How do you ask for referrals? 

  1. Create a referral program
  2. Thank your referral sources
  3. Offer alternate ways to recommend you
  4. Educate current customers across all products and services
  5. Add a link for referral submissions
  6. Be remarkable
  7. Inspire confidence 
  8. Offer a referral commission
  9. Provide content referral sources can share
  10. Treat vendors and suppliers as partners
  11. Update your LinkedIn profile
  12. Create a list of buyers you want referrals to
  13. Treat your clients as partners
  14. Give a referral
  15. Ask for referrals

This is just a start. Let these suggestions jump-start your own idea generation. Create a sales referral process that works for your ideal clients and your networks.

Be referable. Focus on your ideal clients. Tap into your networks in a proactive way. By putting a referral system into place now, you are more likely to receive lead-boosting referrals throughout the year. 

Share this with a colleague!

RECOMMENDED READING >> 5 Things You Must Do in Every First Sales Conversation


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Topics: Networking and Referral Generation