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What’s better than word of mouth? What’s better than an ordinary referral? An introduction.

Word of mouth is great, but there’s no way to leverage it until the person contacts you. Referrals are good, but if you haven’t been connected to the person, they may never return your call or email. These days, salespeople need to work through introductions.

Here are five critical things I believe you should do to turn a referral into a quality introduction.

1) Learn as much as you can about your new prospect.

Ask the person who is providing the referral the following two power questions:

  1. "What’s going on in their life/business that’s important to them?"
  2. "What do you like or admire about them? "

This is the warm prospect research you generally can’t get from Google or LinkedIn. Craft your approach to your new prospect with these answers in mind.

2) Allow your clients to protect their relationships while putting in a good word for you at the same time.

Your goal is a “safe” and effective introduction. Ideally, the introduction feels safe to your client and the new prospect, and creates enough interest that the prospect will take your call.

How do you craft such an approach? Say something to the client providing the introduction along the lines of, “My guess is that George would prefer to hear from you before he hears from me. Let’s talk about how you introduce me to George so he feels comfortable and we pique his interest in hearing from me.” 

3) Create in-person introductions whenever possible.

A typical in-person introduction is where you take your client and their friend to lunch. Don’t talk business (unless it comes up from their side) and avoid giving any advice until you learn more about their situation. Breaking bread with a prospect -- whether the referral source is there or not -- is an underutilized strategy these days, but highly effective. I can’t think of a time when I had a meal with a client and it didn’t turn into business. However, in-person meetings should only be used if they fit with your business model.

4) Discuss how the client is likely to introduce the idea of a referral to their friend and how their friend is likely to react.

Say something to your client like, “What do you think you need to say to George to get him to take my call? And how do you think he’ll respond to this introduction?” This short conversation about the type and style of introduction gets your client to take a stake in making sure the connection goes through, and ensures they make the best possible introduction.

5) Don’t leave the conversation without knowing who will do what by when.

Set a timeframe for the introduction. You might ask, “When do you think you’ll have a chance to leave a voicemail for George so I know when to follow up?” If the client wants to have a real conversation with their friend instead of leaving a voicemail or sending an email, ask when they're planning to talk.

Will some introductions fall through the cracks or not be the quality you’d prefer? Sure. But taking these steps will improve your chances of getting valuable introductions that stand a good chance of turning into sales.

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Originally published Mar 30, 2015 9:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Referral Sales