How to get more customer referrals and business introductions.
New business is the lifeblood of all businesses. Customer referrals and business introductions are by far the most effective way of making contact with potential customers.
People will always be ready to stay in touch with others who they know and have worked with. Sustaining or developing relationships is a comfortable activity for everyone. It is also what most salespeople with the option would choose to do. Yet sooner or later some customers will drift away. Others will be won over by competitors. Some will feel neglected and seek a new supplier. Needs will change and diminish the requirement for your products or services.
This is a natural process so even if your business goals are to attain a status quo, new customers are essential.
Whether you consider yourself a salesperson, or not, finding and pursuing business opportunities should be high on your agenda. If a business is to thrive or, in difficult times, survive, it needs everyone contributing to the effort of finding more customers.
Is your marketing generating enough leads and enquiries to meet your new business needs?
I often ask sales people this question and the answer is almost always ‘no’. The following are specific practical actions that anyone can take to increase customer referrals.
1. Make a list of your top five customers’
Arrange a meeting with your executive contacts. Say that you would like to learn more about their business objectives for the next twelve to eighteen months and to learn how you might adjust your offering to better support their aims.
This is worth doing whether or not it helps you find new opportunities. At the very least, you will increase your understanding of their upcoming needs. If the conversation doesn't naturally embrace the topic of finding new business, ask how their market is changing, and how they plan to maintain new business momentum.
If they ask about your new business plans say, “We are aiming to improve sales productivity by focusing more on referrals than marketing and sales. We think this will enable us to provide our customers with more value. Perhaps you can help . . .” then discuss collaborating on customer referrals.
If they don’t ask, after you have done a lot of listening or when you sense the moment is right ask, “How much of your new business comes from referrals?”.
Whatever the answer, keep on the subject and discuss how you might support each other in a quest for more referrals.
Let it be their idea.
If they offer any names, don't be eager. Hold back. Ask why they think there is a good match. Press them politely for details. When you have a better understanding say, “What would you suggest is the best way of approaching them?”
Let your customer volunteer a referral or introduction.
2. Do it again!
If you have used this method well, you should have obtained more than a few new leads and probably several introductions. It makes no sense to stop. Pick another five customers and repeat the process until you have enough hot leads to meet your needs.
This may seem an obvious thing to do yet, all too often, things that work never become a habit. Consider for a moment those times when you have been reminded of something that you used to do, that worked, and has fallen into disuse.
3. Negotiate referrals
How many times do you concede a discount to close a sale each month? Every time a customer asks for money off, offer what you would have given anyway in exchange for a promise of introductions.
When they ask for a discount say, “What could you offer in return for a price reduction?" Steer the customer around to offering referrals. Make it their idea. Then have them define their offer as introductions.
Remember to get it agreed in writing.
As soon as your customer has had a chance to be satisfied with your product, service, or solution, go back and collect your introductions.
Take care to avoid being palmed off with inappropriate prospects. Always ask your introducer, why they think this particular prospect is a good match for your services.
Just as in the famous Acres of Diamonds story, your best opportunities probably lie closer to home than you realise.
These are just three of twenty seven practical steps that you could take to increase sales productivity, acquire new customers, and improve sales results. I’ll be sharing more of them in the future.
If you would like to learn more about using these methods to obtain customer referrals or business introductions to increase sales, get in touch.
Article by Clive Miller
If you are looking for ways to increase customer referrals or need more business introductions, we can help. Telephone +44 (0)118 983 3887. We will be pleased to discuss your needs or talk through some options. Alternatively Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a prompt reply or use the contact form here.