Learn the Rules of Sale Referrals

These offbeat tactics will help you build your contact list--and sales--in no time.

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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 theperson you're being referred to will be forty percent morelikely to buy from you than from others in your territory. (By theway, if you haven't yet read my last article, "TheTen Commandments of Referral Generation," take a look atit after you've read this column.)

There's no doubt about it: Your chances of getting referralsgo up exponentially if you start asking your current customers forthe 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 stronglysuggest you ask your customer the following questions:

  • What is it about [Ms. Green] that makes you feel she may beinterested in my[ideas/solutions/products/results/track-record]?
  • Do you know what [products/services/etc.] she's currentlyusing?
  • 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/solutionsthat 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 toask this $1 million question:

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

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

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

Maneuvering the Speed Bumps

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

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

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

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

"If you like, you can call Mr. Brown and let him knowI'll be calling. Or, if you think it would be better, we can doa three-way call or all meet for coffee on Thursday or Fridaymorning."

Understand in your heart of hearts that asking for referralswill:

  • Make the person you're asking a hero in the eyes of theperson you're being sent to.
  • Create a deeper business relationship between you and theperson you're requesting the referral from.
  • Create greater business loyalty between you and the personyou'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 istwo-and-a-half times more likely to give you the name of anotherreferral!

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

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

Tony Parinello

Tony Parinello 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,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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