For me, receiving a phone call from an unknown number almost always results in a voicemail from an unfamiliar voice trying to sell me X, Y, or Z. Same goes for emails from an unfamiliar address or name asking for your time.
Now imagine your old college buddy’s name flashes across your caller ID, or an email comes through from that super-helpful IT Help Desk guy that saved the day so many times for you at your last company.
In which scenario are you more likely to make time to respond?
Across the board, salespeople convert just 1-2% of cold calls into meetings. But if you go through a referral, your success rate jumps to 40-50%.
This is where your fellow employees become your greatest resource.
In my experience, while most sales reps are connected with a decent number of people from their own company, the majority of the connections tend to be with other sales folks, and a few product managers they often work with.
But why stop there? Go to the IT Help Desk, the accounts receivable team, the product engineers, the recruiting team, and make sure you're connected to them all. They all have LinkedIn networks and Facebook friends and Twitter followers -- many of whom could be (or become) your prospect.
What my company brings to market is the ability to find someone at your own company who can connect you to your prospect. But you don’t need to have Reppify to have that ability. You just need to be connected to everyone in your company (or, at least, many people in your company – if you’re at IBM, I realize you probably won’t be connecting with all 400,000 other IBMers!). The point is, don’t be shy and don’t limit yourself to your sales brethren.
Unsure how to approach a colleague about making a referral? The first thing to keep in mind is that, in a well-run organization, every employee’s first priority should be to help grow the business – no matter what department they work in. (VP’s and execs in the audience, now is a good time to ask yourself whether most of your of employees hold this view.)
With that in mind, here’s how to handle asking for a referral:
1) Make sure your colleague is comfortable.
Ask your colleague to make the introduction, but only if she is comfortable doing so. You don’t want to force anyone into it.
2) Make it easy.
Tell her why you want to connect with her contact
Explain the value proposition
Give her an email or call script (but make it clear she doesn’t have to use it if she doesn’t want)
A rough example is below:
Greeting: Hey Jerry, hope all is well.
Brief catching-up paragraph: How’s work? How’s the family? Done any good skiing/golfing/travelling lately?
Reason for reaching out: I’m writing to introduce you to a colleague of mine, Joe Smith (copied). Joe is one of our biz development guys here and does a lot of work on X, Y, and Z with folks in your field so I thought it’d be good for you two to connect.
[Keep this part brief - you don’t want your colleague to try to sell the contact in this email, just to introduce you and the topic and let you handle the rest.]
Hand off: I’ll let you guys take it from here. Jerry, let me know when we’ll see you out on the slopes!
3) Insist that your colleague copy you on the correspondence (not blind copy).
This is really the only thing you don’t defer to your colleague on. She can’t just give the prospect your contact info and encourage him/her to reach out to you, because then you have no control of the process. Your presence in the correspondence is license for you to take the reigns and initiate/schedule a conversation.
4) Keep your colleague up-to-speed.
Let her know how things are proceeding. While you won’t be asking her to actively participate any further, making her feel like she is still a part of the process will make it a more rewarding experience and encourage her to continue providing referrals in the future.
Also encourage her to keep a record of her contributions. If her referral leads to business, recommend that she mention it during a performance review -- better yet, send her boss an email to thank her even further!
Have you had any experience getting referrals from colleagues? How’d it go? Any advice we missed? Let us know!
Originally published Jan 28, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017