Does Customer Satisfaction Guarantee Referrals?

Posted on 07/31/2013 in Prospecting and Business Development

So, you are confident that you've provided a great product with great service and have built a positive relationship with your customers.  Does this customer satisfaction guarantee that they will refer business to you?  No!  It certainly builds the foundation but you have to ASK for referrals in order to consistently GET referrals. 

Every sales professional should excel at asking for and getting referrals but this is rarely the case. Often people tend to avoid asking for referrals altogether because it feels awkward or they don’t know who to ask. 
  • Do you know who you should be asking for referrals?
  • When should you ask for a referral?
  • Are you uncomfortable or not sure how to ask for referrals? 

Who to Ask for Referrals?  
Some experts say that you should ask every one of your business contacts for a referral.  We disagree.  Because many salespeople are uncomfortable about asking for referrals, we believe you should begin by speaking to your best customers (your   "champions”).  Your champion customer is one who loves you, your product, and your service.   Once you increase your skill and comfort level in getting referrals, you can expand into asking beyond the champion to prior customers, suppliers, and at networking groups. 

When Should You Ask for Referrals?
A simple rule of thumb is never ask for a referral until you have a satisfied customer. 

There are two good times to ask current customers for referrals.  As soon as a customer has experienced the benefits of using your company or product/service, that is a good time to ask. "I’m so glad to see that we exceeded your expectations and avoided the quality and delivery problems you had with your previous provider. Do you know if there are any other division managers here at XYZ who might also benefit from our services? I’d appreciate the referral and we’d be sure to provide them with the same great service that you’ve received.”

Another good time is when a customer gives you a compliment for a job well done. A great response would be "Thank you! I’m so glad to hear that you are happy with our service and responsiveness. Do you think you could refer me to Dave Smith who is the director of sales at your distributor? We’d provide them with the same great service as you’ve received.”

How to Ask for Referrals?  
  1. Focus your request by describing some relevant characteristic of the desired referral that will help the other person to narrow down his/her list of names.  For example, cite the type of decision-maker or a desirable geography/location or other demographic.  "Would you mind introducing me to your counterpart, Dave Smith, in the Northeast Division?” or "Would you mind introducing me to the other 3 U.S. Sales Directors within your company so I can present my services to them backed up by your referral?”

  2. Don’t be greedy.  Ask your customer to refer only a couple names to you.  Paradoxically, you get more referrals by asking for fewer! "Are there one or two Sales Directors who attend your quarterly meetings that you’d feel comfortable in helping me out with a referral? Your testimonial to my product and service would help me establish credibility.”  

  3. You should sound matter-of-fact and conversational. Don’t make it sound like this is uncomfortable or awkward for you.  "Since it would help your sales efforts, what if we were able to provide customer service training to the Customer Care and Technical Support staff at your company?  Would you mind introducing me to those managers?”
So, now it’s time to write a list of your top 10 (or more) Champion Customer contacts by name. Analyze each person and make notes to indicate specifically how he or she could help you out with a few referrals.  The more specific and realistic your referral request is, the more comfortable it will feel.  Success will be more likely. 

Please visit our website for more information on our Sales Prospecting and Business Development Workshop.