Find referrals in your customer base
Many sales professionals would agree, a referral is by far the best way to approach a new business prospect. But getting the referral requires you to make an ask of your current customer.
One method is to just ask your customer if any of their associates could benefit from your product or services. However, this approach sometimes isn't as effective if it requires your customer to take the time out of their day to make an introduction for you. They may be willing to help, but as soon as they get off the phone with you, or leave your office, life starts happening and your request moves down to the bottom of the to-do list. Another obstacle could be that they may not want to refer a friend or an associate for fear that they will unleash a hard-charging sales rep who will enthusiastically pursue the prospect. There may be some resistance to even offering the names of the people they know.
A seamless transition of information from your customer to your referral is by far a more efficient approach. As a sales rep or relationship manager or account executive (whichever your preferred title), you can do a little research to specifically target your customer's associates and colleagues and have that information already in hand before asking your customer for the referral.
With some pre-referral request preparation, you can find out your customer's business associates, that is to say, the other officers and directors in the company or other companies in which your customer might be involved. You might also be able to determine financial relationships by looking at UCC records. All of these records are public, and are easily available if you know where to look.
This helps to ensure that your customer has to make very little effort to effect the referral. If you already have the name of the colleague or associate that you're targeting, then you've eliminated some of the means of resistance:
The customer does not have to take the time out to connected you with a referral. Through your research, you already know who you are asking to be referred to.
You overcome any resistance to referring colleagues or friends because you already know who those colleagues are. You've done your homework!
Make asking the the referral part of your sales process. If you know that you've done a great job and you have a happy customer and you've built a solid relationship, then asking for a referral should become second nature. If you are feeling a bit uncomfortable in asking for a referral, or you just need a reminder, create a script for yourself. Write it down and know what you are going to say. It could be something like:
"Mr./Ms. Customer, I was doing some research and I see that you're connected to Mr./Ms. Prospect through ABC company. I'd like to give Mr./Ms. Prospect a call, would you mind if I used your name?"
It's a very simple ask, especially if you've done your research. Doing the research takes out some of the awkwardness of asking for a referral and then waiting for a phone call or email response. Framing the referral in this way removes resistance from your customer. They don't have to do anything, aside from give their verbal consent, and you have a referral prospect in your pipeline.