Business Development StrategySales TipsWomen in Business

Why You Need a Referral System

By July 15, 2015December 18th, 2015No Comments

Personal Trainer

I’m pleased to introduce my good friend Joanne Black, referral selling expert and author of No More Cold Calling™ and Pick Up the Damn Phone with today’s guest blog. You know how much Whale Hunters reject cold calling to whales–so here’s one great alternative.

Why does anyone pay for a trainer at the gym? All the equipment is there, and staff will show gym members how to use it. But working with trainers makes us accountable for showing up. Trainers help us perfect our skills, stretch our goals, and fine-tune our approach. We receive ongoing coaching, feedback, and reinforcement. We have a routine and a system.

It works the same way in sales. To be effective at referral selling, we need a referral system with metrics and accountability to ensure we’re asking every great client to refer a friend. We also need skills building and coaching to help us get comfortable doing so.

Yet, many sales leaders don’t take the time to make referral selling efforts successful. Sure, companies provide some training, but without ongoing coaching, reps soon fall back into the same unproductive patterns (i.e., the dreaded cold calling.). Too many sales leaders view this lack of training as another problem du jour. If they ignore it, it will go away.

No wonder salespeople think referrals don’t scale. They’re not doing it right.

A Referral System Delivers

Referrals are your biggest competitive differentiator. When you receive referral introductions from people your prospects know and trust, you get in early and meet with people who want to meet you. Because you have an established relationship, your prospects share information that your competitors will never hear—insights that give you the inside track on key decision-makers, budget, and expected timelines. Your competition either diminishes or becomes nonexistent, because you now set the standard by which others are evaluated.

Referral selling also delivers:

  • Pre-Sold Customers: You shorten your sales cycle and close deals faster, because your customers already know who you are, and they want to talk to you.


  • Meaningful Conversations: You are credible in your prospects’ eyes from the moment you first connect. You have the robust conversations you love—learning about their businesses and ways you can help.


  • High Close Rates: You convert prospects into clients well more than 50 percent of the time. (Most salespeople tell me it’s more like 70 percent.)


  • Valuable Customer Relationships: You conduct more business with existing customers, and they become loyal Referral Sources. 


Show, Don’t Tell

Many sales executives have what I call the “point and tell” syndrome. They point at salespeople and tell them to get referrals. Then these leaders are perplexed when nothing changes.

Adopting referral selling is simple, but it’s not easy. For a referral system to work, it must be part of the overall sales strategy, with metrics and accountability for results. Reps also need training, coaching, and reinforcement as they learn how to ask for referrals. This is what it takes to change behavior. Anything less is a waste of everyone’s time.

Test Your Referral Savvy
Take my 14-question Referral I.Q. Quiz and learn what it takes to build a referral system. The questions are mostly “Yes/No,” and it should take less than four minutes to complete. Once you’ve finished, you’ll be bounced over to a results page, where you can see the aggregated answers from everyone who has participated.

Take the Referral I.Q. Quiz now.

Here’s to great referrals!


About the Author
Joanne S. Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling—the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit You can also follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.