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Who Moved My Referrals?

Who Moved My Referrals?
A MUST ASK In Every Sales

Imagine for a moment . . . placing the same amount of
emphasis on referrals as the other significant items of our sales process.
Where could this take you? To help gain clients and sales, our personal
sales marketing plans might already use some combination of: advertising,
seminars, lead generation, cold calls, personal and professional networking,

RARELY do I see sales people using “referrals” as a main
part of their sales marketing plan. Consider the following:

When was the last time you asked for a referral?
When was the last time a salesperson asked you for a
When was the last time you asked your client for specific
names and contact information of people they know who could benefit from your
product or service?

Do you or does your company have a specific “method of
operation” to follow as it relates to referrals? Are you too shy to
ask? Is your self esteem such that it troubles you to ask? Almost
each and every day I see examples of this unfortunate mindset with my own sales
coaching students or at the companies for which I consult. RARELY even do
my own clients ask me for referrals.

Melody Mayer, the COO of Lime Trucks ( and a client of mine,
asked the question . . . “Chuck, which of your clients would benefit . .
.?” As I pondered her request for referrals (again, a request I normally
don’t receive, even from my own clients), it struck me that her service could
positively impact many of my clients. We ended up scheduling TWO separate
hour-long phone appointments to cover all the information that fulfilled her
request. But just as importantly, Melody did two things: not only did she
ask me the question, but she had also EARNED the right to do so. I could
trust my clients to Melody - she had earned that trust through her credentials
and her manner of professionalism. I gave her a green light to use my name
as the referral source.

Consider the implications of that single question . . . “Who
do you know that could benefit from my product or service?” Additional
names were added to Melody’s database; she had new prospects to contact,
yielding an increase in her business. Take it a step further: what if she
then earned the right to ask that question from each new contact that I gave
her? Could you imagine the exponential growth of her opportunities
database? HELLO!

Recently one of my Executive Sales Clients sent me an
e-mail asking about my thoughts on referrals. I felt his questions were
the basis for a great discussion and learning environment and I wanted to share
with you our communication.

Executive Sales Client:
“I am
working on refining my procedure
for asking for referrals. What I want
to do is be able to paint a picture for the existing client of the prospect I am
seeking, so that someone specific pops into his or her mind. If I ask for just
anyone, that usually means no one.”

“I feel I need to tailor the type of referral according to
the client I am speaking with – I don’t want to paint a picture of a
45-year old to someone who is 65, and vice versa. This is what I have come
up with. I want feedback and additional ideas.

Age – “My ideal client is ____.” The age will be similar to the client’s
Family – “My ideal client is an empty nester,” or, “My ideal client is
someone just like you who is beginning to plan for their children’s
Savers – “My ideal client has saved money along the way.”
“My ideal client may have a 401(k) from a previous employer” either due to a
job transition or retirement, based on who I am talking to.
“My ideal client is approaching retirement, or is in retirement, and is
addressing their estate plan,” or,
“My ideal client is in a professional position similar to yours.” (i.e. real
estate agent, teacher, executive, etc.) Once again, based on who I am talking

“Do you see how I am trying to tailor the picture to each
individual client? What other traits can I paint? How else can I do

Sales Coach Chuck’s Response:

These questions are a great foundation for a good
discussion. I have no clear cut answer of what will work for you
specifically, yet I do want to share a couple of viewpoints and see if something
will trigger for you that works.

Earning the right to ask for referrals should be an ongoing
strategy for any salesperson, regardless of industry. My personal belief
is that it does not boil down to a set specific set of questions. I do
believe that a “set” method of operation needs to be in force at all times,
whether you ask for the referral, as stated in your specific statements listed,
or you make it a point to include the “ask for the referral” in all your
marketing pieces, client communication, etc. All of these marketing
methods fall under creating T.O.M.A. – Top of Mind Awareness: Does your
client think of you when they are ready to enter your industry to make a

My coaching suggestion would be: START today! Ask for
referrals at every point of contact with each and every client AND potential
client. As I have said, the sales industry consists of the 95%’ers and the
5%’ers. 95% of salespeople struggle and the other 5% are gaining
traction every day by working smarter, making more money, AND doing it in less
time. The 5%’ers are asking for referrals - ALL the time.

Answer this question... When was the last time you
were approached by a salesperson that asked YOU for a referral? How about
this? When was the last time YOU asked for a referral? We, as
salespeople, can certainly stand to make improvements in this part of our own
personal sales process.

Looking over the statements and questions from my Executive
Sales Student, I see where he is going with this: lots of planning, lots of
thought. He’s planning out the best way to leave his clients with a
pre-emptive strike: to remind them to refer other prospects to him. He
states: “If I ask for just anyone, anyone usually means no one.” Know
this: “asking” one time is just part of the process. 5%’ers will always be
asking, either in a direct or an indirect manner.

“It seems that I need to tailor the picture to the
individual client.” As I think about this statement, I wonder: is this a
preconceived notion of his, based on his personality style and strengths?
Think of the salespeople you buy from – would you want them to give you
something tailored like this, to help you think of “specific” referrals?
This line of thinking might pigeonhole him into something that works for his
personality style, and in turn won’t work for others – namely, his

Here is another way to look at it. If he came across a
“Socializer” client or one who has strong social skills, they would open up
their entire database to him and not take a moment to concern themselves with
the specifics that he might be looking for. This specific situation would
certainly add numbers to his personal sales database. Then, he would
implement the “80/20 rules of communication” as taught in the SalesMastery
course. The 80/20 rule allows salespeople to handle large numbers of
referrals & contacts in a time efficient manner.

Here are my Top Seven “Who Moved My Referrals?”

Be “ReferABLE”

Do you earn the right to ask for referrals? Are you REALLY distinctive
in your sales and communication processes with your clients? Do you build
an impenetrable wall around your clients that makes them competitor-proof?
Do you MAKE people want to do business with you? Would YOU do business
with YOU?

Use the Direct Approach:

Always verbalize the question and ask it outright at the end of a call or
appointment. Remember the Colombo close . . . as you’re walking out of the
room and you reach for the door knob and you ask: “Oh . . . by the way, who do
you know that might benefit . . .” Or, use this same question when you are
about to conclude a sales call.
Salespeople who build true intimacy with their clients can ask this question
all day long. Salespeople who are lacking in the skills of building
intimacy might find ways NOT to ask this question, because they are not truly
connected with their clients.

Use the Indirect Approach:
Utilize different things and
have some fun! How about these ideas:

On every piece of mail that you send to a client, include a Post-It note
asking for a referral.
Hold a client appreciation get-together and perform a short speech telling
your appreciation of your clients and asking for referrals.
Send very important clients a gift, like a pen and pencil set and dropping a
special personalized note in the gift wrapping.
Just the other day, in Forth Worth, Texas, I asked 72 people for referrals
at one time and I didn’t even open my mouth. My seminar evaluation form
contains an indirect question asking for referrals. This specific event
fostered over ten new referrals, equaling ten new additions to my database.
Another sales student of mine, who is somewhat introverted, has a
questionnaire that he sends to his clients by postal mail or e-mail.
Buried in the questionnaire is a place for his clients to respond to this
question: “Who do you know that might . . .”

Network the ENTIRE World:

In his book MEGATRENDS, John Naisbitt states “you can
network the entire world just by knowing five people.” I believe it, do
you? I actually have some former clients that call me when they need a
specific contact in a specific city. Within that network as you proceed to
build it, ask and continue to ask each person for referrals.

Market Yourself Shamelessly

If you don’t get tenacious about marketing yourself, who will? Don’t
be embarrassed, get out there and let the world know what you do! Many
times we look for that “perfect” environment in order to ask for a
referral. There will never be a perfect situation - so be shameless and

Look at EACH Contact as a Life Long Relationship

No matter what! Each person, regardless of how you connected, should
be entered into your database with full contact information including: e-mail
address, date of birth and hobbies or passions. When you create lifelong
positive relationships – you further earn the right to asking for

Deliver Twice What You Promise

When you consistently deliver more than expected, new clients are drawn to
you and past clients are easily influenced to provide you referrals. But
remember, you still have to ask for them, your clients are not looking into a
crystal ball telling them that you would like a referral.

Okay, you have read the article – now what? Are you
going to let the information “sit” like a book in the bookcase collecting
dust? Or, will you take my personal challenge which I bequeath to
you? YOU must take part or all of this information and put it to
use. Start implementing it today and you will be working smarter, making
more, all the while having more time to enjoy it.

About the Author: Chuck Bauer is an accomplished speaker, sales coach & consultant. He has performed hundreds of sales & leadership seminars throughout North America. He is affiliated with the National Speakers Association, Coach University and CoachVille. Chuck has over two decades of sales experience and over 16 years as a Sales Coach, Consultant and Trainer. He consults to a large number of sales organizations and salespeople nationwide. He routinely goes on “live” sale presentations with his clients. You may reach Chuck via e-mail or his website at

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