6 Barriers to Referral Success

6 Barriers to Referral Success
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Brad had a “problem.” He had more referrals than he could handle. (Is there really such a thing?) Using a homegrown program, he’d booked more business in one quarter than in the entire previous year.

"I have about 200 referrals since working with you, and I literally cannot keep up with the volume,” he told me. “I plan to catch up next quarter. Right now my staff and I need a breather.” Brad's advice for sales leaders: When you commit to referral selling, you get what you ask for, so get your team ready to service your new referral business.

John faced a similar challenge when he decided to go on a "referral tour" and meet with his clients. He'd been depending on his consultants to ask for referrals, and (surprise, surprise) they almost never did. Throughout the tour, John expanded business with his existing clients, who then introduced him to their connections. By the time he returned to the office, he had more new business than he’d ever imagined.

John now makes it a priority to ask for referrals—and to ensure his team knows how to do so—and he continues to receive introductions to prospects that know his value and actually want to talk to him. John's advice: “You'd better have the infrastructure in place to support all of the referrals you'll receive.” To help his team organize and follow up on all the great leads, John is now researching referral automation platforms that integrate with Salesforce.

Related: How to Increase Your Customer Referrals

Referrals don’t manage themselves

Want to have Brad and John’s problem? Simply tap into the business opportunities your team has been leaving on the table.

Referral selling eclipses any other business-development strategy. When you implement a strategic referral program, you:

  • Double your sales force without adding to your payroll
  • Penetrate prime accounts with personal introductions to exactly the decision-makers your sales reps want to meet
  • Get only qualified meetings at the level that counts
  • Ace out the competition and seal the deal
  • Convert prospects to clients more than 50 percent of the time

Yet, few companies have a disciplined, systematic process to build referral skills for their teams, and to create solid metrics that ensure accountability for results.

6 barriers to referral success

Implementing a referral process sounds simple in theory, but it’s easier said than done. Here are the challenges -- or better put, the excuses -- that can derail your best referral intentions:

1. 'Other things took precedence in my business.'

Really? That means you haven’t truly committed to referral selling. You still think it would be great if referrals just happened. You don't have the guts, the will, and the resolve to put a stake in the ground. What's more important than getting new, qualified clients for your company?

2. 'My reps forget to ask.'

Do they “forget” because they’re still not comfortable asking? Or because you haven’t incorporated referrals into your sales process? Either way, you have a choice. You can continue to let them “forget,” or you can put a process in place to ensure they remember, with rewards for referral success.

3. 'I'm way too busy to track referrals and make sure my reps follow up.'

Some say that salespeople are lazy. Wrong! We just have tons of balls in the air, and they get dropped from time to time. We need tools to simplify our processes, accelerate customer acquisition, and ensure customer retention and loyalty. Sales doesn’t want the operational hassle of managing a referral program at scale. That's why we need referral automation software that helps remind reps to follow through, extend their relationships with customers, and ask for more referrals.

4. 'My salespeople don’t have enough time to implement their referral plans.'

Salespeople bemoan that referral selling takes too long. They believe dialing for dollars builds their pipelines faster. No way! Referrals do take time. Salespeople have to reach out to their networks, actually talk to them, and meet with people in person. But considering the dismal success rates of cold calling, and the 50-plus-percent conversion rate of referred prospects, what's the problem here?

Related: Why Referral Marketing Works

5. 'My team hasn’t identified enough people.'

If your salespeople haven’t identified enough referral sources, they haven’t identified everyone they know. Their job is not to evaluate whether people would be great referral sources. Their job is to get their contact lists together. Your job as a sales leader is to help them understand that everyone knows someone, and referrals often come from the most unexpected places.

6. 'I haven't set specific metrics for referrals.'

Maybe you're afraid to be accountable for leading referral success? If you don't establish specific referral metrics, you're off the hook for coaching your team to success with a new prospecting system. But more than likely, you just aren’t sure what referral metrics look like.

Keep your metrics simple. Set too many, and you'll confuse people. You could create metrics for the number of referral introductions reps will ask for each week, how many referral meetings they’ll conduct, the number of new clients you expect them to bring in through referrals and in what timeframe, or increases in revenue and profit.

A referral automation platform helps you set goals and track performance. It also helps your team manage follow-up, track referral activities, and enroll customers and colleagues in your referral program. This takes the pressure off reps and guarantees a dependable and measurable referral process, which is half the battle.  The other half is ensuring reps know how to leverage their referral networks and ask in a way that gets results.

Referral selling is a complete shift

Like any new way of working, a successful transition to referral selling is common sense but not common practice. It seems easy, but it takes work—including regular feedback and coaching to help your team learn and grow.

Clarity is essential. Stay focused on your referral-selling strategy. What is the cost of NOT executing your plan? When you can answer that question—for yourself and for your team—then referrals are yours for the taking.

But first, you must let go of your sacred cows—the way you used to prospect. There are many traps that can undermine your best intentions to build a referral business. But to successfully shift your sales team to referral selling means integrating referral activities into your sales process and making it your #1 priority. And that all starts with you—the sales leader.

The faster you transition to referral selling, the more introductions you’ll receive, and the faster your revenue will soar. Remember Brad and John's problem? It could be yours.

Related: 3 Ways to Beat Referral Fatigue in Sales

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