Talking to salespeople about referrals is an interesting exercise! Every salesperson seems to know and understand the value of referrals. Each of us has received an unexpected referral from a customer we couldn’t really remember. We also know (or know of) that sales professional whose entire practice is referral based.

How is it that the retail sales referral is a regular occurrence for some and as elusive as a rainbow colored unicorn for others? As it turns out, there is a simple explanation for this phenomenon: Process

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Those retail sales professionals who have a process for getting referrals are wildly more successful than those who don’t. The process can be Rube Goldberg level in complexity or painfully simple (keep reading for my simple version!) . Either way, it is always much more effective to ask for a referral than to hope for one!

The goal of getting more referrals on a more consistent basis can be easily reached by doing these four things at every opportunity: Commit, Practice, Ask and Follow-Up!

Make the Commitment

Quantifying the dollar value of your lost referral business is tricky. When I work with clients I use this simple rule: take your current average ticket and multiply it by 100. This quick and dirty estimate will show you the dollar value of a year’s worth of referrals with just two referrals per week.

I worked with a furniture sales consultant who’s average ticket was less than $1,500. Given the average sale in his company and the number of sales he made in 2017, the quick math showed he left over $10,000 in commissions, incentives, contests and spiffs on the table

Needless to say, he is now fully committed to getting referrals…

Practice Your Ask

We know the people who do TED talks practice relentlessly to be able to execute their presentations flawlessly. Fans get to Yankee Stadium at 4:30 in the afternoon to watch the best hitters in the game take batting practice. HBO’s “Hard Knocks” is a hit show, for all intents and purposes, showing NFL players practice! The best of the best recognize the importance of practice.

Practice is embarrassing. It exposes our vulnerabilities. With that said, practice is what separates the best salespeople from the rest of the pack! There is nothing that will get you closer to that “free” money than practicing and fine tuning your referral ask!

Ask Every Time

Rejection is every human being’s kryptonite. Sales professionals are no exceptions to this rule! (For more about rejection, read The Power Of The Word “No”) One of the real challenges to asking for referrals is exposing yourself to rejection while you are basking in the glow of acceptance!

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The sales process is filled with opportunities for the client to say “No”. The majority of sales people believe asking for a referral is giving the customer another chance to shoot them down.

Taking a more positive view, let’s try a creative application of Newton’s First Law of Motion: an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion.

If we apply this Law to retail customers, we can suggest that a customer saying “yes” will continue saying “yes”. This puts the referral request in a new light. Once the client says “yes”, they will continue saying “yes” to the right questions!

Follow Up Relentlessly

The key to the successful referral is to ask the right question at the right time. For your particular retail environment, the right time is that particular moment during or after the payment and before “goodbye”. The pressure of the sale is over and the customer no longer views you as an adversary. Depending on the length and intensity of the sale, you may even be viewed as a friend!

The right question is much softer than you may believe: “Most of my clients are friends and family of happy customers like you! Can I call you in a few days to get the name and email address of a friend or two who may need ________ in the next few months?”

This will get you a “Yes” every time and it may yield a name or two on the spot! The reward rests in your diligent use of your CRM to follow up with each of your asks with a specific, consistent system.

This article was originally posted in December 2017. Updated in December 2019


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