What’s the best way to get a referral? Don’t ask!

What’s the best way to get a referral? Don’t ask!

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.

What’s the best way to get a referral? Don’t ask!

Picture this…you walk into your best friends house and say “Mary could you do me a favor.. I’m looking for some new friends and I was wondering if you knew anybody like yourself that you could refer me to, and oh, by the way I’m going to be selling them something. And if you wouldn’t mind doing an introduction for me, I’d really be a happy about that. And oh, by the way, thanks.

Doesn’t that sound ludicrous? Doesn’t it seem imposing? Doesn’t it even border on rude? And your friend may even agree to do this for you but in the end when it comes time to put up or shut up, their list will be very short. Maybe even empty. Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Empty.

And you can be an even bigger jerk by calling them up pretending to like them “and speaking of referrals, how about those friends I asked you about the other day?”

What I have just described for you is what 99.9% of all salespeople do when they ask for a referral. And it is obvious from the above example that they are 100% wrong!

Anyone who asks for a referral doesn’t get it. A referral isn’t something that you ask for, a referral is something that you earn. Oh sure you can ask for them but it makes everyone feel awkward and will often times destroy a budding relationship.

The definition of referral is risk. You are asking your customer or a friend to risk their friendship or business relationship with someone else by referring them to you. And they are NOT going to do that without a high level of comfort and a long history of performance and deep level of trust.

Is there a right way? Yes, but it’s the hard way AND the long way. I hope it’s your way.
1. Become better friends. People will only refer you if they feel safe and can trust you.
2. Provide incredible service. Your entire company must be “earn-a-referral” driven. This means that service or the response to a service need must always be at the highest possible level. Referral level.
3. Anticipate needs. People love surprises if they are positive ones. If you know someone is about to run out of supplies, delivering them a week in advance will blow their doors off.
4. Be a value provider. Send your customers weekly information that they can use to help build their business. My weekly e-zine, Sales Caffeine, is my way of providing on-going value to my customers in the form of sales strategies and techniques while staying in front of them 52 times a year.
5. Show them areas where they might get new business. Real value partners show opportunities.
6. Start with asking for (by earning) testimonials rather than referrals. This way you can be certain that they are happy enough to refer.
6.5 Execute the Law of Reciprocity. Give them a referral. Enact the law of reciprocity without ever stating it. The best way to get anything you want is to give it. People tend to give what they want to get. When you go shopping at Christmas you get things you like. “Oh Bill would really like that” but in reality you really like it. Ever buy a Christmas present for someone, and like it so much you keep it for yourself?

This whole referral thing is being dealt with upside down and backwards. The key is to understand “what triggers” the referral not “how to get one.” Once you realize that you must give first in order to get second you have only taken the FIRST STEP.

You must further understand that the law of reciprocity is indirect. In other words you give without thinking “he owes me one.” Don’t measure anything that you do. In my life’s experience I have found that when I measure or count my chips that I would only get back an amount equal to what I gave. In other words, if I feel that someone owes-me-one then one is all I get. But if I let it go and say I gave because I wanted to, then the world pays me back. And the world will always pay you back times ten. Sometimes it just takes a little longer.

One of the big differences I found between me and other sales people, is that sales people think, “end of the month” and I think, “end of time.”

Referrals are really report cards. They will tell you how you’re doing at building business relationships and friendships. If you get no referrals it means you’re doing a poor to medium job. If you get lots of referrals it means you’re doing a good job.

BUT, if you get unsolicited referrals it means you have achieved the ultimate in sales. Someone proactively speaking on your behalf, and a third party taking action as a result of the endorsement. On the sales report card there are no higher marks. And as a salesperson, no better feeling.

Free GitBit…Want a blueprint for how a real referral program works? Go to www.gitomer.com – register if you’re a first time user, and enter the word REFERRAL in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts internet training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to salesman@gitomer.com