Jill Konrath


Jill's Jottings: Fresh Sales Strategies 

Get More Free Sales Resources

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

5 Steps to Better Referral Selling


Today's post from the Chamber of Commerce features business-growth advice for small companies.

There are many sales strategies, but none as effective as referral selling. While doing a certain amount of research on prospective clients teaches you more about their needs, it does not provide much of an actual sales advantage. So, how can people in sales best tap into the power of referral selling?

Referral SellingJoanne Black is the owner of No More Cold Calling™ and says simply that no one should ever have to make a cold call. She founded the business in 1996 and though the speed at which information is available has changed, the basics of referral selling remain the same.

“The most effective, productive way to build a business is through referrals,” Black insists. “People do business with people and that is built on relationships.” She says that the sales people she talks to tell her that referral selling has a minimum of a 50 percent conversion rate; many report up to 70 to 90 percent conversion. These numbers point to the vital role referral selling should play on all sales teams.

Black discussed some of the most important factors surrounding referral selling with me. She talked about five pieces of advice she gives to sales teams when it comes to building referral selling.

1. Referrals must be the priority.  Rather than a supporting sales tactic, referral selling should be the primary method of business development.

2. Metrics must be in place. A well-developed measurement plan has to be part of all referral selling strategies. If there isn’t a plan, you may ask for a referral in the wrong way. Just like other sales tactics, the way referral selling is handled by each sales team should be modified based on the findings of the metrics involved.

3. Referral selling should be a daily activity. Building business through referral selling should be an integral part of everyday operations, not just a campaign that takes place once in a while.

4. Skill development is necessary. Never take referrals for granted as an “easy” sale. Remember that relationships are very personal and making deep connections takes some hard work. Referral selling should be treated like the business asset it truly is and sales teams should work toward skill betterment.

5. Overcoming the fear of rejection is vital. Besides being afraid of sales objections, people are afraid of referral rejections. In Joanne’s words, “People are not comfortable asking for referrals because they think they will get turned down. People are afraid that others are too busy.” In her experience, however, people are actually very happy to help provide referrals and introductions if they are able. It is a simple way to help others in an increasingly non-personal world.

In order for people to connect you to others that they know, you have to be willing to ask for the referral. Rather than going into a potential sale “cold,” think of all the steps that are cut out with the help of an introduction. Smart referral selling tactics leads to higher conversion and deeper client relationships.

For more tips from Joanne, check out her links:

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com.  Browse ChamberofCommerce.com’s business directory to search over 11 million businesses.

Jill KonrathJill Konrath is an internationally recognized sales strategist. As author of two bestselling books, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, she's a frequent speaker at sales meetings and conferences. For more fresh ideas, download her free Prospecting Toolkit.


Right on Jill and Joanne -- referrals are the best way to grow a pipeline. Two important additions to the list: 
1) Ask for referrals by name. When you say to someone "do you know anyone else who could use my services?" you're asking for a referral from a position of weakness. What the other person hears is "my business is hurting and I need your help growing it." It's uncomfortable for your client and it's uncomfortable for you.  
Instead, ask for a referral from a position of strength. Do your homework. Using sales intelligence techniques, figure out who your client knows.  
Then say something like: "I was doing some homework and I see that you know Joe Smith. You know, I like to be very selective on who I work with and after researching Joe, I think he'd be a great fit for my business. What do you think? Yes? Do you think you can help me with an introduction?"  
When you ask for a referral by name you feel better, your client feels better, and you're way more likely to get in front of prospects in a meaningful way. 
2) Do your homework prior to the meeting. Don't ever go into a meeting--even a referral meeting--without having done your homework.  
Use a site like http://www.yougotthenews.com to research your prospect's company and even the prospect him/herself. Visit his/her LinkedIn profile. Use other sales intelligence techniques to determine what's important to the other person.  
Then use that information to share RELEVANT stories, ask meaningful questions, and connect on a much more personal basis.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:22 AM by Sam Richter
LOVE IT ! Great article and hit the point!
Posted @ Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:29 AM by Tim Hagen
A couple of thoughts. First, you have to ask. Not many referrals if you don't. 
Second, is you still need to qualify. 
Third, how you ask is important. Rather than ask, do you know anyone, how about asking, who do you know?  
Posted @ Friday, February 08, 2013 1:16 PM by Marc Zazeela
Great! Thanks for the insight.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 26, 2013 3:47 PM by Poudjom
I second that. Referrals are indeed an effective way on how to get more clients and ultimately, close more deals.  
www.ultimatecoldcalls - Eliminate your fear of cold calling once and for all. 
Posted @ Tuesday, March 19, 2013 6:43 PM by Antoine Martiano
Post Comment
Website (optional)

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics