The sales manager is conducting the weekly one-one coaching session with her salesperson. As they review the sales activity plan, she notices a gaping hole: the salesperson isn’t asking his best and most satisfied clients for referrals. When pressed, the salesperson replies, “I forgot.”
This is a good sales manager, so rather than accepting this answer, she redirects the conversation with the powerful question. “Did you forget or were you uncomfortable?”
Let’s apply the emotional intelligence skill of reality testing. Are salespeople really forgetting to ask their best clients for referrals when this strategy can eliminate cold reach outs, decrease sales cycles and increase close ratios? It’s time to call this sales behavior, or lack of, what it is. It’s referral aversion.
Joanne Black, author of No More Cold Calling, is an expert at helping sales teams build proactive and productive referral strategies. When I interviewed Joanne about salespeople and their reluctance to ask for referrals, she shared great insights into referral aversion.
“Referral selling is the most personal kind of selling we can do. Some salespeople feel that asking clients for referrals is pushy and intrusive. However, the number one reason is salespeople fear hearing no. The client isn’t satisfied or we said something to upset them. Rather than face the possibility of a client saying no, salespeople just don’t ask. The second reason is that asking for referrals is not incorporated into the salesperson’s sales process, so salespeople aren’t sure when to ask. Often, they wait and wait and then decide it’s too late.”
Now, let’s suppose your sales team is asking for referrals but not receiving any introductions. The reason: your sales team is engaged in ‘drive by’ referrals. Out of the blue, they call clients and ask, “Bob, who do you know that could use my services?” The client is not prepared and gives the predictable answer, “Uh, let me get back to you.” The self-fulfilling prophecy of my clients don’t give me referrals begins.
Make it a goal to work smarter, not harder in 2016. Harness the power of client relationships and referrals to accelerate sales.