Almighty Referrals ‘Earn the Right’ & build strong relationships
by: Larry Coco, Coco Training & Coaching
The month is winding down and your sales team is frantically trying to close every deal possible. Order processors are on high alert. Your techs and IT staff members have been asked to work overtime doing setups and installs. You try and squeeze out all that you possibly can and the month is suddenly closed. It is now time to wrap it up since the journey starts all over again tomorrow.
It is now time to analyze the results. The cold, hard fact is that your sales team came up short of expectations. The sales pipelines were not filled to an acceptable level. By drilling down, you and your management team notice that the billed orders were, in large part, generated by current customer upgrades and some new business as well.
You think about what more could have been done to meet the established targets and reflect on your great successes as a sales rep years ago. Then the light bulb suddenly goes on and the realization hits: Referrals were always a big part of your sales funnel and they helped you get to the promised land in a consistent manner.
It is now time to ask yourself if you have a true referral process in place. If not, why not? The fact that you are now thinking about this is a good thing, as research tells us that 41 percent of the business generated by the best sales executives in the technology space come from referrals.
Getting referrals is hard work, but it is truly fun and rewarding work. It requires sales reps to stay connected to their clients and to make frequent “touches” to build even stronger relationships. This reassures clients that they are important and that your company is there for the long haul.
A few questions come to mind. First, how can your company bring added value to your customers? Next, what does the customer expect from your company and your sales reps going forward? By answering these questions, clarity can be had.
Now it is time to develop a referral process that can be embraced not only by your salespeople, but by your entire organization. Keep in mind, clients are more willing to provide those valued referrals only when they know deep down that you will make them look good. If you are not sure about this, please ask your customers and listen intently to their responses as to what motivates them to share key relationships with you. My bet is that the words “trust” and “credibility” will be heard often.
It is all about taking a more proactive approach. In the early, discovery part of the sales process, your reps will do well to thank prospects for their time and begin planting seeds. For example: “Steve, I enjoyed our meeting today and wanted to ask: If and when we have the opportunity to do business together and you see we have delivered at a high level to the point of complete satisfaction, is there a chance you would be willing to share referrals with me?” Believe me, as your rep nods his (or her) head “yes” and smiles, the prospect will follow suit.
Another approach may work very well during the “solution proposal” stage. Your rep might say: “Kim, we look forward to earning your business. Just know that if and when we partner together, we will want to come in every quarter and do a formal account review that will allow us to find ways to make your organization more productive and efficient. Are you OK with this?” Chances are the prospect will view him with respect and respond positively. This approach positions your company as being special and different (a competitive advantage), since it takes away the buyer’s notion that the rep is only there for a commission check
and will soon be going away. Please remember that these are not just words. We must do these things and make them part of our selling culture.
Your rep has now earned the customer’s business and a seamless install takes place. It is now time to say: “Mike, two things. First, thank you so much for the business. It is appreciated. Second, just know that the bulk of our business comes from referrals. Also know that anyone you would be kind enough to send my way will be treated with the utmost professionalism, courtesy and respect. Please keep me in mind going forward.”
This is where the constant “touches” come into play. Some examples include: a handwritten thank-you card (a personal note means so much); referring customers to your clients; formal account reviews; invitations to educational seminars, open houses and lunch-and-learns; updates from industry articles on business trends; and walk-ins when in the area with a customer post-sale questionnaire (a report card every six months is recommended) that allows your client to know that his voice counts and your organization is always looking for ways to improve. (Note: If you do not have a great post-sale questionnaire, contact me and I will send one your way.)
Imagine the power of installing a strong referral process for your sales force. Make it part of your written sales rep job description, since it will be a large part of the job. Discuss the process with your sales reps as well as sales rep candidates prior to making employment offers. Build your culture. Inspire your people. Create a metric.
Perhaps the new expectation will be that each sales executive will secure at least five referrals from current clients each month. Let your reps know how important this initiative is to both their growth and development as well as the company’s. Drive this in sales meetings and recognize those who have done a good job with referrals. Celebrate good behaviors and great accomplishments. Also, be sure to embed this metric into your CRM tool so this effort can be tracked and measured, resulting in best practices that fast become part of the way you do business.
Let’s say you currently have 10 sales reps and require each to provide five referrals a month. How much could these 50 golden leads affect your ability to hit your sales targets in a consistent fashion rather than the “roller-coaster ride” that simply wears you down over time? Please realize this may be the missing piece you need at month end that results in high fives from the big boss rather than nasty glances.
In summary, note that the best sales executives across the country take a proactive approach and attribute 41 percent of their success to the almighty referral. If you know a sales executive sitting at 79 percent of plan year to date and he is not asking for referrals because he thinks it is awkward to ask, is not sure what to say or believes a customer should call in with a referral, it is time to change that mindset. He may very well be able to have a more vibrant sales funnel and be a 120-plus-percent performer who operates with more consistency, direction and purpose. So how will that change his life? Visualization here is key. Referrals are all about earning the right and building strong relationships; they are as good as gold