How to get referrals – if it’s not on your mind already, it should be. Wonder why ?

According to Hinge Marketing (“Inside The Buyer’s Brain”), when looking for a new professional services firm, over 70% of B2B buyers turn to a friend or colleague for a recommendation. To give you an idea of how important getting referrals and introductions really is, consider the following. In the same study, “using a (pre existing) internal list” (#3 ranked factor) and “online search” (#4) were used by buyers to find new suppliers in … 11% of cases.

In other words, buyers are  7 times more likely to find potential suppliers for future projects through referrals and introductions than via Google.

Understanding how to ask for and get referrals is crucial to sales success.

In the study, Hinge goes on to highlight that “60% of buyers are very willing to recommend their service providers.” The most common factor buyers cite for not providing a referral ? “I hadn’t been asked” (72%). In other words: over 70% of B2B buyers say referrals are the #1 way they find new potential vendors. And over 60% of buyers are very willing to refer their current vendors to other buyers – if only someone asked them to.

Understanding how to get referrals means understanding basic human psychology. There are three core “golden rules” that impact your ability to get referrals and introductions: reciprocity, reward and risk.

Golden Rule #1. Reciprocity.

[tweetherder]Human beings are hardwired to give referrals; it’s part of who we are.[/tweetherder] When someone presents us with a problem or challenge (like how to find a new service provider), our natural instinct is to want to be helpful. Yet, many sellers I speak to about how to get referrals don’t feel comfortable outright asking for them. They are concerned about appearing too “salesy”, pushy or getting “no” for an answer. (Incidentally, according to Hinge only 3% buyers indicated “not being satisfied enough with their current provider” as a reason to deny a referral request.)

Tactic: Probably the easiest, safest and most comfortable way to get more referrals is to start by first giving them. And they don’t even have to be sales-focused referrals either; I routinely introduce people with similar roles, work in similar industries, live in the same place or even work in the same company. By simply introducing people (with likely shared interests) to each other, you will gradually become known as a connector – and when asked, people will gladly return the favour and introduce you to their network.

Golden Rule #2. Reward.

In spite of our selfless motivations and innate desire to help others, at the same time most of us also seek some form of reward for our actions. Rewards come in many forms: they can be intangible (for example, the pleasure we derive from helping someone out), or tangible (for example, a referral fee). They can be short term or long term. They can be financial or emotional. They can be large or small. Substantial or (virtually) inconsequential.

Tactic: the more layers of reward you can stack on top of each other, the more inclined others will be to provide you with referrals. Don’t just ask for a referral; make it clear how making the connection will help the person giving the referral and the person receiving it.

Golden Rule #3. Risk.

I often refer to risk as “the forgotten factor”. In business, no decision is ever made without considering risk. The same is true for referrals. The largest risk holding people back from making a referral is their perceived fear of “losing face”, or damaging their relationship with the person they are referring you to.

Tactic: the simplest and most effective way to help them get over that fear is by simply addressing it head on – and clarifying how you’ll never, ever betray their trust. Make it clear you’re not going to “give them the hard sell”, but merely looking to start up a conversation. Outline how you’re going to deliver value from the start, and at every major interaction. Help them realise you’re aware of how sacred relationships are, and would never do anything to jeopardise theirs.

Developing a deep understanding of how to get referrals (and how to give them in exchange) can be one of the most powerful things you can do to boost your sales career, or build your business.

[tweetherder]If sales is a people business, then connecting with people is what generates that business.[/tweetherder]

So next time you’re wondering how to get more referrals, start by answering the following questions:

  • Who can I introduce, make a referral or introduction today ?
  • What value can I deliver to both parties when I am being introduced ?
  • How can I minimise the risk of making an introduction ?