Referral selling. Indeed there seems to be a consensus that getting an intro/referral to a lead vs. cold prospecting is more effective. There are even some sales professionals that state they do absolutely no cold prospecting and only rely on B2B referrals. This all sounds great in theory, but getting introductions to prospects is not nearly as easy as it seems. Even happy customers may be reluctant to give a referral if they believe it’s too time-consuming. They might fear they aren’t in the right place to make the intro or you haven’t given them a compelling reason share your story. Long established brands may find it easy to get word of mouth referrals but if you are a new business you really have to fight for it.

So how do you start from scratch? Let’s take a look at how to ask your existing customers for introductions. I asked 4 sales professionals the best way to get referrals from reluctant customers (and then I threw in one of my own for good measure).

These are 5 tips for landing B2B referrals from reluctant customers:

  • Dwayne Lutchman – Account Executive, Ideal

I start by checking out successful customer’s LinkedIn connections and asking them directly for introductions. “Hey, I see you’re connected to Bill. As you know, we can definitely help him. Would you mind making an intro?” Typically I save this for a customer who has had a great experience with us. I also make a point of asking them for some social media love. “Hey, would you mind sharing this article for me?” I want to make it as easy as possible for them to spread the word.

  • Somen Mondal – CEO, Ideal

I think word of mouth is the best method of referrals.  Besides creating a structured referral process, exceeding expectations for your customers is the best way to receive organic referrals.

  • Tim Peters – VP Marketing, Ideal

Make your customer look good during the referral process. For example, if you are offering a cutting edge solution, create a case study highlighting how forward thinking your customer is for selecting you as a vendor. Throw in the amazing results they’’ve achieved as well as a few tidbits about their business. They can then share this with their peers when making an introduction for you. Make it as easy as possible.

  • Michael Soos – Business Development Representative, Ideal

I find most customers are willing to give referrals, but many sales reps just don’t ask. You can make it easier for yourself by creating a forward-able introduction. Making the process easy for your contact will increase the likelihood they’ll pass along a referral.

  • Shaun Ricci – COO, Ideal

The best time to ask for referrals is when something positive has happened for your customer because of your product/service. I would suggest taking a few minutes and making a list of “referral trigger events.” This can be done easily in Excel, you don’t have to come up with something fancy. At Ideal, our trigger events are when an employer has a successful interview with a candidate, makes an offer or has an offer accepted by a candidate. If you have a list of these events, it will act as a reminder of when you can ask for a referral.

Referral selling is great, but getting to the point where you can get a lot of referrals takes effort and determination. If you work hard to support your customers and are always focused on grabbing a referral at positive moments in your relationship, you can start to see the rewards of this approach.

What are your thoughts on referral selling? Have any shortcuts? I’d love to hear them!

Shaun’s company, Ideal, helps companies hire top sales talent. Find your next top performer here.