This morning I attended a Professional Sales Association meeting in Minneapolis where the speaker touched on something near and dear to my heart-referrals. For twenty years as a salesperson and sales manager in the medical device industry I found it almost impossible to ask a physician if he or she knew of another physician who might like to use my product. Doctors only refer to other doctors in different specialties. They really don’t want the doc down the street using a product that might improve their practice. (Typically, as kids, these would-be doctors also wanted the sand box to themselves.)
As I moved into sales training and consulting, asking for referrals became an important practice. That’s why I so enjoyed the presentation given by Michael Roby. Check out his website for some interesting ideas. If you cannot locate information on asking for referrals ask Michael for it. (It’s the presentation he gave on February 1st, 2008 at the PSA meeting in Minneapolis.)
What I liked most about the presentation was the way that he asked clients for referrals. And that brings me to the main part of this post. Why don’t salespeople routinely ask for referrals? Here are a couple of reasons:
No one ever taught them the right way to ask for referrals.
Salespeople are fearful of asking, due mainly to the possibility of being rejected.
Salespeople may not consider themselves worthy of asking. Believe it or not they may not see value in what they are selling or they may not value themselves sufficiently. (Scary thought!)
A salesperson asked a couple of times but received nothing except an angry look from the customer.
Think about this. If you have 50 good customers who are happy with you, your company and the products why wouldn’t they be willing to give you a referral? I learned this lesson the hard way. Several years ago I received a call from a past customer and he suggested I call an acquaintance of his who was having trouble keeping his salespeople. I made the call and closed the deal. When I called the referring customer he said, “I’m shocked that you never asked me for referrals when you were working with us.” Ba-Da-Ding! Talk about a rap over the knuckles with a 2 pound ruler!
The quickest way to get over the fear of asking for referrals is to offer them first. (Another no-brainer!) When you’re talking with a customer, a friend, business associate ask them what a good prospect looks like for them. Once they recover from the shock of being asked this question they’ll give you some ideas. Match them up with some decent contacts who may need their service or product. Most people will want to return the favor. Don’t ya just love capitalism!
The Final Thought: Ask and you shall receive!