Given the choice, which of the following two lead-generation methods would you prefer?
- cold calling
- asking for a referral
Perhaps surprisingly, a not-insignificant portion of your fellow subscribers will have chosen "asking for a referral". In spite of how so many of us complain that we hate cold calling, that we're not comfortable with it, some are even less comfortable asking for referrals. Why do you suppose that is?
In speaking with salespeople, I've determined that it's usually one of three reasons. One, the sales person doesn't feel he or she has the right to ask for a referral ("I got the deal by being prospect-focused; to turn around and now ask for a referral would be, well, self-serving and pushy"). Two, the salesperson feels as if he or she is imposing on the prospect. Or three, the salesperson would like to, but doesn't know how to do so tactfully.
I can certainly appreciate those reasons, but I feel it's a shame to let them get in the way of what is to one degree or another a warm lead. I don't have to deal with gatekeepers, I don't have to deal with "I'm not interested", "I'm too busy", or "We're happy with what we have now". And I don't have to deal with leaving endless unreturned voice mails and sending e-mails that get ignored. Because I'm being introduced by someone the prospect knows and trusts. I have immediate credibility. This shortens the sales cycle by avoiding having to spend time identifying and reaching the appropriate person in an organization, and provides me with higher close probability opportunities (because the referee will have somewhat pre-qualified the lead). So I look at all the reasons not to ask for referrals as self-imposed objections. And like any objection, they can be dealt with by using the same objection-handling methods you use now with prospects:
Craig: "Well, I'm the sales person. It's my job to serve you. I don't feel I have the right to ask you for anything."
Craig: Well, you could look at it that way. Or you could look at it the way I do: by having clearly and forthrightly demonstrated to me how your solution works and what it could do for me, I was able to make a well-informed, confident decision that has turned out great for us. Maybe I have a need to show you my appreciation for what you did - and one way of doing that would be to introduce you to my counterpart at Acme Company."
Craig: "Craig, I can appreciate why you might feel you don't have the right to ask for a referral. Can you help me understand your reasoning?"
What you need to keep in mind is that if you've provided value and your customer perceives that he or she has gotten value out of the relationship with you, you have earned the right to ask for a referral, and should feel no compunction in asking for one.
If you agree that a referred lead is a "better" lead, use the objection-handling methods to help you deal with your own "objections." Once you're able to do so, identify 2-3 customers you're pretty sure would not only be willing to provide a referral, but enthusiastic about doing so. Once you've been given those referrals and discovered that you didn't get your head bitten off for asking, your confidence in asking other clients for referrals will only grow.