Learn the Rules of Sale Referrals

These offbeat tactics will help you build your contact list--and sales--in no time.
4 min read
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If you arm yourself with the following not-so-typical "rules of referrals," you'll soon be selling large, without ever making a cold call again! That's because the person you're being referred to will be forty percent more likely to buy from you than from others in your territory. (By the way, if you haven't yet read my last article, "The Ten Commandments of Referral Generation," take a look at it after you've read this column.)

There's no doubt about it: Your chances of getting referrals go up exponentially if you start asking your current customers for the following specific categories of names:


  • Your customer's customers
  • Your customer's suppliers

Not So Typical

  • Your customer's board of advisors
  • Your customer's board of directors
  • Your customer's owner, CEO and/or president
  • Your customer's "line of business executives," also known as vice presidents, CFOs, CMOs, CIOs and CTOs.

As soon as you're given the referral name, I strongly suggest you ask your customer the following questions:

  • What is it about [Ms. Green] that makes you feel she may be interested in my [ideas/solutions/products/results/track-record]?
  • Do you know what [products/services/etc.] she's currently using?
  • Can you tell me if [Ms. Green] has any of the following goals, plans or business objectives for the balance of this [month, quarter, half, year]? Then mention several ideas/areas/solutions that you have a track record in providing.
  • What can you tell me about [Ms. Green's] personality?
  • What's her assistant's name?

On a roll? If your conversation is going well, you may want to ask this $1 million question:

"Could you give [Ms. Green] a call and let her know I'll be calling her at [9:00 AM] on [Tuesday morning]?"

Or, if you're really willing to go for it, here's the best option of all:

"Would you mind calling Ms. Green while I'm here and introducing me to her?"

Maneuvering the Speed Bumps

By my count, there are two potential referral obstacles to be on the lookout for:

1. If you notice that your customer--or anyone else--is reluctant to give you a name or two after you've asked for a referral, it's possible they're not clear about what you can offer the other person. Don't be too compulsive: In some cases, asking too soon for a referral will cause greater-than-necessary delays in getting what you want. You can hedge your bets by testing the water. Try this:

"Mr. Smith, let me leave you with this thought. Please don't keep me a secret! If there's someone you know that I might be help in a similar or even greater way, I'd love to have you introduce me to them in the very near future."

2. Your customer--or anyone else--is concerned that they'll hear something like "Why did you sic that salesperson on me?" from whomever they referred. So try this:

"If you like, you can call Mr. Brown and let him know I'll be calling. Or, if you think it would be better, we can do a three-way call or all meet for coffee on Thursday or Friday morning."

Understand in your heart of hearts that asking for referrals will:

  • Make the person you're asking a hero in the eyes of the person you're being sent to.
  • Create a deeper business relationship between you and the person you're requesting the referral from.
  • Create greater business loyalty between you and the person you're asking for the referral.
  • Increase your win rate.
  • Totally eliminate the need to ever make a cold call again.

Use what you've learned here to lower your cost of sales, and remember: The person you're being referred to is two-and-a-half times more likely to give you the name of another referral!

If you've got any questions about this or any other sales situation, don't hesitate to give me a call during my Entrepreneur Sales and Marketing Show on internet talk radio, Fridays between 9 and 10 a.m. PDT.

Tony Parinello is the "Executive Sales" coach at Entrepreneur.com and has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program, Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office.He is also host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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