Over the years I have seen a lot of salespeople do everything right on a call: they’ve gotten past Shirley, they’ve given a great pitch to Bill the decision maker, they’ve asked probing qualifying questions, they’ve taken good notes on when to follow up. But then they hang up the phone totally forgetting an important piece of the deal-making process—asking for a reference.
Referrals. They’re so important. Good references. That’s what helped you get this great job you’re so thankful for, remember? Well, if a good reference is essential in getting a job why wouldn’t it be essential in keeping a job—hence making more sales?
A prospect will give you a reference if he likes you and trusts you, but you have to ask. Ask on every call you make. Here are some things I say to help me obtain a reference:
“Bill, you sound like you know you my industry better than I do. Do you know of anyone who can benefit from our services?”
You’re buttering Bill up a bit, stroking his ego. How could he not offer a name or company to call? He doesn’t know your industry better than you do–that’s silly–but he doesn’t know that you know.
“I’m new to this type of sales, Bill. Any ideas on how to a reach better-suited prospect? You seem to know this business inside out.”
Again, you’re acknowledging the prospect’s expertise and experience. You’ve turned the focus not on what you’re selling but on Bill. Upon hearing this offhanded compliment Bill will most likely lower his guard and give you a name. Or two.
Self-deprecation works as well.
“Hey, Bill, I’m not the swiftest guy in the world. Can you think of anyone who I can reach out and call?”
I guarantee you that Bill doesn’t hear that come out of many salespeople’s mouths very often, including the ones who work for him.
Not the swiftest? This poor SOB. Oh, give him a name, Bill.
Don’t forget to ask for a reference. Try to be natural and lighthearted.
Ask and you shall receive.