Not every prospect is ready to jump in and do business with us right away. That’s why it’s so important for salespeople to remain professionally persistent with new prospects. Sales deals require multiple touches to close, so reps who give up after just one or two communications won’t see success.
But salespeople must be careful to balance their perseverance with good judgment, especially when referrals are involved. Here are seven critical things to remember when selling to referrals.
7 Strategies to Make Referral Prospecting Incredibly Effective
1) Always be respectful.
Remember – These prospects have been referred or, better yet, introduced to you, so you must treat them like royalty. It’s not just your reputation on the line. Your referral source’s relationship with this prospect might also suffer if you act unprofessionally, and that’s a poor way to repay somebody who’s helped you out.
2) Leverage your relationship.
Use the information you learned about this prospect from your referral source to present and maintain a more compelling reason for them to move forward with you. When you tie your prospecting efforts to what’s most important to them at the time, you’re more likely to spark and maintain their interest.
3) Present yourself as an extra set of hands.
When approaching new prospects, present yourself as an “additional resource.” Avoid the appearance that you’re trying to replace any current relationships and your prospects will be more receptive to you. Even if they’re not happy with their current vendor, they may be stuck in inertia and not receptive to change. Coming in as an additional resource will be easier for them to consider.
4) Keep your referral source in the loop.
Your referral source can assist you in determining how persistent you should be with their friend or colleague. If you have trouble reaching your prospect or they seem unresponsive, let your referral source know. They will advise you how to proceed without hurting any relationships and will appreciate you considering their perspective.
5) Formulate an outreach plan.
Have at least five to seven touch points pre-planned for your prospecting efforts. You need to be flexible to be successful in sales, but it’s better to start with a plan than to make it up as you go.
Most salespeople give up after two or three attempts, even though study after study demonstrates that it usually takes five to seven contacts to bring your prospect to a decision. The best way to ensure your outreach sequence follows a logical progression is to plan it first.
6) Provide value in every touch.
In each touch point, provide some additional value. Compile a series of articles, videos, or links to other related resources that build on each other in a logical progression. You can include one of these resources each time you reach out to your prospect. By including information from sources other than yourself, you demonstrate that the value of knowing you goes beyond just your own expertise.
7) Go for the “no.”
If your prospect keeps putting you off after repeated (appropriately-timed, so you don't appear aggressive or needy) attempts to connect, it could be time to go for the no. Here’s an example of how I might approach a referral who wasn’t responsive:
Bob – I appreciate your willingness to continue to explore how I might become an additional resource for you. I get the feeling that perhaps you don’t see the fit and you’re too nice a guy to just say ‘no’ to me. Would you prefer that I stop contacting you at this time?
You should adjust this wording to fit your style, but you get the idea.
When you go for the no, one of two things usually happens.
You learn more information that allows you to adjust your approach and keep the courtship alive.
You are able to release this prospect and spend your time and energy with other clients and prospects.
Don’t wing it when it comes to being appropriately persistent with qualified prospects. And don’t give up too early. Have a plan, work the plan, and be flexible as you learn more information about the prospect along the way.