How to Train Your Sales Team to Request Referrals

By Butch Bellah

If the easiest sale you will ever make is to your current customers, the second easiest is to a referral. Thus, as a manager, you need to make sure your sales team is asking for referrals. There are many salespeople who have no fear at all when it comes to asking for the sale but can’t bring themselves to ask for a referral.

If you’re asking your customer for a referral, you’re implying you trust his judgment and appreciate his business. Believe it or not, most of the time your customers want to help you.

It is not recommended asking for referrals on the first post-sale follow up. The current customer comes first — make sure he’s well taken care of before you start trying to add more to your plate.

In order to have a consistent supply of referrals, you must have a referral tracking system. You may challenge your salespeople to generate a certain number of referrals every month. However, in order to succeed at this, they must track the referrals they get.

Create a referral log spreadsheet so each salesperson can log his referrals for the month. Keep up with not only how many each salesperson received, but note who gave the referral and the results of contacting the referral.

A referral comes from someone who already likes, knows and trusts you, and if you end up securing business from a customer’s referral, let him celebrate the win with you! Customers want you to be successful, and every time one of their friends, relatives, or acquaintances purchases something from you, it reinforces the original customer’s initial decision.

Devote an entire sales meeting to generating referrals. It’s that important and like everything else, it takes practice and is a learned skill.

In order to keep that referral spigot flowing like a fire hydrant, you must have a plan. Use this three-point plan to train your salespeople to be referral magnets!

  • Be referable: This may sound simple and even silly, but it goes back to not asking for a referral before you’ve actually done something worth being referred for. Just because someone bought from your company is not reason enough to ask for a referral.

    Let the customer experience your product, service, and the service level of the individual salesperson. That salesperson is the only thing the competition can’t duplicate! Inspire your sales team to rise above the competition and ensure they provide exemplary customer service. If they do that, the referrals will come.

  • Give referrals: The best way to plant the referral seed in a customer’s mind is to refer someone to him.

    You cannot control whether the referral buys or not; that’s not your job. You just need to get the two together in the first place!

    If you provide a referral, it is perfectly acceptable standard practice to contact the customer and let him know. Something along the lines of, “Hey Martin, I referred another client to you today. I told him you’d take good care of him.”

    Yes, it’s just that simple! Now, the client is thinking of referrals even if the person you referred never buys.

  • Ask properly: There is a right way and a wrong way to ask for referrals. Train your people to use this sentence: “Who do you know that I should be talking to?”

    Don’t ask “if” they knew someone, because that can lead to a negative response. Simply asked “who” they knew. You are much more likely to get a favorable response and a referral from the customer when asking in this manner. Train your people to use it every time.

Keep up with referrals. Log them, track them, and measure them. And when a referral becomes a customer, make sure your people thank the original customer.

Now you may be saying, “When do I have time to manage, while I’m doing all this other stuff?” Well, that is managing. When you have a sales force properly trained in the entire sales process, can present your product or service, ask for the sale, overcome objections, provide tremendous customer service, and continue to build their business with a strong referral base, you become a great sales manager — and your job is so much easier.