Use Referrals to Grow Your Business

The best method of generating more leads without increasing your costs is referrals. At seminars, salesmen and owners cringe at the subject of referrals. Many will talk about it, but few bring in the money they deserve from this easy source of sales. This article contains the sales techniques that Mae Edwards, a salesperson we talked to, used to sell more than 300 systems per year for more than 10 years. This is not the blather of consultants; it is the truth from someone who made a living with referrals.

You may already know that the only way to keep your business growing is to have a substantial resource of ongoing leads. You can cold call, you can do bottle drops, mail-outs and follow people around the parking lot with your business card in hand as they lug 50-lb bottles of water to their car. This kind of prospecting has worked for many dealers. Referrals, however, are among the most effective lead sources dealers and salespeople can use.

The Delivery

Referrals are the best-qualified leads and a true measure of the quality of work that you deliver. If you are doing a full presentation, selling to the consumer in a manner in which they like to buy—meaning taking no shortcuts and asking appropriate questions relevant to the customers’ interest—you will convince your customers that you and the product you are presenting are two things they can welcome in their home. If your presentation serves as a discovery, identifies the customer’s wants and delivers solutions, then you are selling the way today’s customers buy. If you are credible and likeable, you can easily earn a minimum of eight referrals from every presentation.

The company you work for expects all of its employees, from administrative support staff to technicians, to get referrals, and all employees should expect to obtain them. Now you may be wondering how to get those eight referrals. Are you ready? The answer is—just ask. It starts by simply asking and it truly works. In fact, it has been proven that the frequency and number of referrals obtained are in direct proportion to the frequency of asking.

When you sign (or don’t sign) a contract, make eye contact with your customer and say, “What I need from you now are the names of 12 people you know who share the same concerns or interest regarding their household and drinking water as you do. Will you help me with that?” Don’t give them an opportunity to even think they don’t know anybody. Everybody knows somebody. You can go on to suggest, “Your children, parents, siblings, neighbors …” and so on. If they respond with something like, “My children live out of state, parents are deceased, brother has the system, don’t talk to my neighbors” or another reason, be tenacious and help them out. “What about the church group, baseball team, singing group, card club, employer and so on?” If they resist yet again with “I don’t have any such affiliation,” this may be an indication that you have not been up to par in your presentation and there is a reason you are not getting their referrals.

Here are five questions to ask yourself when you do not get a referral:

Did I look professional? Were you dressed for business, well-groomed, breath fresh and shoes unscuffed?, You have to look and smell good.

Was I credible? Have you done your homework? Were you able to tell them where their water source comes from? Identify value-added benefits by improving the quality of their water accurately and professionally. Were you able to answer all their questions?

Was I likeable? In other words, did you use unnecessary and unethical scare tactics? Did you smile? Were you complimentary about their current method of water treatment, something in their home, their children or their precious pet? Did you use a little light humor, make your presentation believable and make them comfortable in your presence?

How did I ask? “Do you know anybody?” won’t cut it. You must make it easy for the customer to help you, by giving them ideas about whom they know. You have to appeal to their sense of willingness to help you out. If they liked you, if you were credible and if you presented yourself well, they wouldn’t mind helping you get some future business.

Did I make it clear how I plan to approach their referrals? Often, customers fear that their valued friends, family or associates will be upset that their names were supplied to a salesperson. Let your customers know what your approach to their referrals will be. Be concise in order to appeal to their comfort level. Say, “When I call your referrals, I will tell them I tested your water because you had some concerns or interest in water improvement products. When I asked them if they knew of anyone who might share those concerns or interest, they suggested that you just might be interested in hearing from me.” This approach has worked for many. It is non-invasive, non-aggressive approach and it will work for you.

Referrals Come with the Job

Remember, you are offering help—improved water via a proven water assessment. In “relationship-selling”, you are not selling a product, but rather a solution to a problem, and you are trading money for that solution. When you do a great job helping your customers, they will be happy to help you. You must do a great job to earn the right to ask. Again, if you want to grow your business, get out there, do a great presentation and ask for referrals.

Make asking for referrals a part of every presentation and every sales situation. It will change your life and increase your business. This, in turn, perpetuates more great presentations and the result is more families making an informed decision to improve the quality of their water.

When it comes to referrals, there are three groups of salespeople and dealers. First, those who don’t want to talk about referrals. Second, those who talk about referrals but get very little return from them. Third, those who make a point of asking for referrals at every presentation. Which group will you choose to be a part of?

Maybe we can’t all be as direct as Mae Edwards, but take a look and see what you can use from her techniques. Try a few steps and see if it encourages you to try more.

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About the author

Carl Davidson and Ric Harry are directors of Sales and Management Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in sales & management video training, recruiting and live seminars exclusively for the water equipment industry. A free demonstration video and list of products and topics is available at 800.941.0068. Send comments on this article to them at [email protected];