Sales and Sales Management Blog

December 18, 2009

Blast Your Pipeline with Dozens of Quality Referrals in 30 Days

This is chapter three from my e-book: Recession Proof Your Pipeline: A Dozen Strategies to Fill Your Pipeline in 30 Days

Blast Your Pipeline with Dozens of Quality Referrals in 30 Days

Large numbers of high quality referrals are difficult for most salespeople to generate.  Certainly, many will manage to get a name and phone number here and there.  However, most of those names and phone numbers are little better than taking out the phonebook and pointing a finger at a name. 

It need not be that way.

By learning a disciplined, effective, proven process for generating a large number of high quality referrals from each of your clients and even your prospects, referral selling can become a reality.  It is for many of the top producers in every industry.

Yet of course, you can’t possibly learn and implement a systematic process of referral generation and expect to see significant results in only 30 days.

The good news, however, is that you can still generate a substantial flow of business in only 30 days if you learn to turbo charge your client’s ability to give you a large number of quality referrals in a very short period of time—virtually overnight.

Whom do You Want to Be Referred To?

If you expect to use referrals as an igniter of your pipeline in short order, you’ll have to do all of the work for your clients.  Asking your database of clients for referrals will generate referrals if done correctly.  However, the fruits of that request won’t be seen quickly.

You, of course, don’t have the luxury of waiting.  You need business NOW.

Therefore, you’re going to make giving referrals easy—for your client.

Sit down right now and draw up a list of 100 individuals or companies YOU KNOW you want to be referred to.  Be specific.  List the name, the phone number and the address of each individual or the name, phone number, address, and the specific person within the company for each company you wish to be referred into.

You may have to do some serious research.  Nevertheless, your list is the critical part of this strategy.

Don’t stop at 50, or 70, or 90.  List a minimum of 100 individuals or companies.  Remember, you’re going to make it easy for your client to refer you.  Someone must do the work—and that’s you.

When making your list, leave room on the right side of the sheet beside each name to put the name of the person who is going to refer you to that person or company.

Who Is Going To Refer You to Whom?

Great.  You know 100 individuals or companies you want to be referred to. 

So, how are you going to get referred to them?  By your clients, of course.

Now, take your database of clients and examine each one.  Which client do you have reason to believe can refer you to the first person on your list?  The second?  The third?

The more you know about each of your clients, the easier this part of the task will be.  Hopefully, you’ve come to know the majority of your clients well.

Beside each prospect, list the client–and their phone number–that you believe can refer you to that prospect.

If you have a list of 100 people or companies you know you want to be referred into, you’ll probably be able to identify 70 or so that you have reason to believe one of your clients may know and can refer you to.

If you have 70 prospects your clients may know, you’ll probably find they can actually refer you to about 47.

If you are referred to 47, you’ll probably set appoints with about 35

If you set appointments with 35, then multiply 35 by your average close ratio—that is what you can expect to close.  If your close ratio is 40%, you should have in your hand 14 short-term sales

Get the Referrals

Now the question is: how do you turn your list into referrals?

Naturally, you are going to go back to each of the clients that you have identified as a potential referrer to someone on your list.

Start with the clients you have the strongest relationship with first.  Better to get some positive reinforcement from your best relationship clients before you approach those you have a weaker relationship with.

However, before you approach anyone, you need to get comfortable with what you’re going to say.  You don’t want to stumble and stammer.  You want to come across to your client as comfortable, confident, and in control.

Referrals can be tricky.  They are hard to generate if your client doesn’t believe you expect them and that you have earned them.  If you doubt, that doubt will be picked up by your client, who will be less likely to agree to give them.  After all, if you don’t believe what you’re saying, why should your client?

Get your act together before you make your call to your first client.

Don’t ask for referrals via a letter or email.  You will be far more successful if you ask in person.  Short of that, you must make a personal phone call.  Generating referrals is a relationship action, not an impersonal request.  You must deal with your client on a one-on-one, personal level. 

When you call, before bringing up the referrals you seek, find out if your client has ANY needs, concerns, or requests regarding your product or service.  In other words, make sure you still have a happy and fully satisfied client.  If you don’t, you cannot expect referrals.  If the client is dissatisfied for any reason, instead of referrals to get, you have customer service work to perform.

Then, once you know your client is still ‘on the team,’ explain that you have a favor to ask.  You have two or three people you believe you can help but have not been successful in being able to meet through the normal course of business.  These are people that you thought for whatever reason the client might know and are hoping that if they do know them, that they would be comfortable referring you to these prospects. 

If you have done your research and matching of prospect to client well, your client will probably know one or two of the prospects you ask about. 

Once they acknowledge they know them, find out how well.  With a referral, you are hoping to build a relationship with the referred prospect based on their trust and respect for your client.  If the prospect trusts and respects your client, some of that trust and respect is imbued to you—so you start your relationship with the prospect from a positive position.

However, the person you’re asking about may not trust and respect your client.  If they are just casual acquaintances, their trust relationship is neutral, as will be your starting point.  In addition, if the prospect distrusts and disrespects your client, your starting point will be from a negative position because some of the distrust for your client will also be imbued to you.

It is important that you know where you start–the stronger the relationship between client and prospect, the better your chances of getting an appointment and a sale.

If you have done your job for the client well, they should have no problems referring you into the prospects they know.

Work your way through your list of 100 prospects.  You should have more than a month’s work ahead of you.  Again, you will probably have about 70 prospects to contact and set appointments with.

Don’t Just Get Referred, Get Introduced

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a referral is to simply get your client to agree to refer you.  That’s what the average salesperson does—and it doesn’t work well.

Instead of just getting a verbal referral, that is having your client say, “Sure, I’ll refer you to them,” get a direct introduction to the prospect.  Not only is a direct introduction more powerful than an agreement to use the client’s name, a direct introduction, if done correctly, almost guarantees a private meeting with the prospect.

Although there are a number of ways of getting a direct introduction, when under the time pressure of a 30-day explosion of production, you have 3 realistic options:

  1. A Letter from Your Client Written by You for Your Client’s Signature.  A letter of introduction will probably be your standard format for a direct introduction.  Don’t ask your client to write the letter because they will not have the sense of urgency you need, nor will they write the letter you want written.
            Instead, write the letter for your client, on your client’s stationary, in your client’s voice.  Use a standard format:  1st paragraph informs the prospect of what you did for the client; the 2nd gives the prospect an idea of what you might be able to do for the them; the 3rd states an exact day and time the client has asked you to call the prospect; and the 4th has your client asking the prospect to call the client after your meeting with the prospect so the client can get the prospect’s opinion of you and your company ( the reason the client requests this is because the client respects the prospect’s judgment).
           Have your client sign the letter and then mail it to the prospect.  A day or two after the letter should have arrived, call the prospect.  Assume the prospect has not read the letter.  When you reach the prospect, immediately refer to your client and the letter, not to yourself.  If you introduce yourself first, the prospect may determine you are nothing but another tele-marketer before you have the opportunity to mention your client’s name and they may mentally block you out.  Don’t give them the chance.  Gain their interest with your client’s name first.
             Some salespeople think they can get around the letter by simply acting as if a letter has been sent.  Bad move.  Some prospects, after getting off the phone will look for the letter.  If it isn’t there, only one of two things could have happened—the letter was lost in the mail or the salesperson lied.  Guess which one they’ll assume?
  2. A Phone Call to the Prospect From Your Client While You’re in the Client’s Office.  This is, of course, a more powerful introduction than a letter.  Don’t’ let your client call without you being present.  You want a direct introduction and you want to know everything that is said during the conversation. 
         Although powerful, this format has some drawbacks.  This method is powerful because it is unusual and because it allows the prospect to ask direct questions about you, your product and the client’s purchasing experience.  This format can backfire if there are questions you’d rather the prospect not ask.  If there are weak areas in your client’s purchase, this may not be your best choice.
    However, this format almost guarantees a meeting with the prospect since it is difficult for the prospect to decline a meeting request when the client is also on the line.
  3. A Lunch Meeting with Your Client, the Prospect and Yourself.  This is, by far, the most powerful introduction format you can use in this circumstance.  A lunch format allows you to get to know the prospect as a friend prior to getting to know them as a prospect or client.  In addition, in this format, your client acts as your salesperson during the lunch, you’re there as the consultant.  As with the phone call format, it is very difficult for the prospect to decline a meeting request in front of the client.  Furthermore, since the meeting format is informal, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the prospect and their business long before you begin discussing business.  If you pay attention, you should have a great deal of ammunition before the subject of business comes up.


Developing referrals from your clients can take some time.  You must develop your list of prospects you want to be referred to; you have to match those prospects to individual clients in your database; you must contact each individual client for the referrals; write the letters or arrange the calls or lunches; and then have the actual contact with the prospect.  All of this before you even have the individual meeting with the prospect. 

This method requires you to be disciplined, very well organized, and committed to working the process.  You must have a sense of urgency or time will slip away and you won’t meet your 30-day goal. 

Commit yourself to having your prospect list completed within 2 days.  Keep in mind, developing this list may take some serious research.  Then, once you have your prospect list, you should have matched prospects to clients by the end of day three.  By the end of the fourth day, you should have contacted and received referrals from several clients.

As soon as you have referrals, start the introduction process.  Don’t try to go through all 100 prospects prior to beginning getting introductions.  You’ll run out of time.  Again, this format calls for good organizational and coordination skills.  You’ll have to be gathering referrals while working referrals.

More than likely, you’ll find that you’ve filled your pipeline and still have more referrals to pursue.  Good job!  Not only will you have jumpstarted your sales again, you’ll carry that momentum into the coming months as well.

Want more strategies to help fill your pipeline quickly?  You’ll find 11 more strategies for using the phone, networking, creating marketing partnerships and more in Recession Proof Your Pipeline.  Order it here



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