Luckily for businesses, lead generation can be achieved through ample channels and tactics. Among the top are Networking, Exhibitions/Tradeshows, Referrals, and digital marketing strategies.

The most underused and fundamental method is the utilization of Referral Partners. Referral Partners are individuals or companies that refer business to you and your business – lead passers. They can be an integral component to the success of your business development and sales efforts.

There are many reasons for the understated importance of Referral Partners, and all can be overcome by recognizing their value and creating good habits.

Don’t Assume – Ask

You’ve worked hard to develop your relationships with your partners, whether it be clients, vendors, or other professional relationships and now you are assuming that the work is done – that they will graciously spread the good word about your services, and exemplary customer service. In some cases, you may fear that they will say no, or worse, not acknowledge your request.

It’s time to stop making assumptions and let go of your fear and ask the question. People generally love helping others, and especially when they experience authentic and valuable customer service. Research has uncovered that 91% of clients would gladly give referrals, but only 11% of salespeople ask.

Tactics

Asking for referrals is a numbers game much like cold-calling, networking, and exhibiting. There are multiple tactics that can be used to ask for referrals.

Face-to-face is a powerful approach because it adds a sense of accountability and sincerity. There are several opportunities in which you can ask in person.

  1. When you close the sale and everyone is raving about the customer service you have provided, or a final meeting, is an opportune time to say thank you, and ask for referrals. Determine which questions are most comfortable for you to ask, write them down, practice asking, then apply.
  2. Sometimes a gentle wait is in order; people can be more open to making referrals once they’ve had some quality time with your products and services – a trial and error period. In these cases, wait a month, and then pose the question.

Letters, emails, and drip campaigns can be equally as effective in other situations. If neglecting to ask for referrals hasn’t been a standardized practice, or good habit, money may be left on the table. In these instances, there is an opportunity to employ a scripted approach.

  1. Handwritten thank you letters are powerful, and show thoughtfulness, and will also work when asking for referrals. It conveys a sense of detail, care, and that they are worth your time and effort.
  2. Emails can be crafted with sincerity and a direct tone that works well with colleagues and companies that you’ve built trusted relationships with to-date.
  3. Now that you’ve asked, you’ll want to maintain a top-of-mind presence. A well timed, crafted series of emails scheduled to touch base with our network serves as a reminder that you are here and interested in receiving referrals. A best practice for this tactic is once quarterly.

Leaving behind business cards is an easy way to ask for a Referral Partner to pass along your information, which will also create a physical presence and reminder to your contact. Our line of sight is a powerful persuasion tool.

Make asking for referrals a habit. The more you ask, the more you’ll receive in turn. In making The Ask a habit, you are creating a best practice within your business process. The Ask will:

  1. Drive sales dramatically
  2. Foster healthy relationships
  3. Remove the fear of no
  4. Compliment all sales and business development efforts

Assumptions don’t fill our databases, build lead sources, or supply us with sales. The simple act of asking a question is an indispensable way to substantially increase sales, build relationships, and implement a known business best practice skill.