Seven Deadly Referral SinsA prospect who has been referred to you is five times as likely to buy from you as any other type of prospect. So you’d think salespeople would become masters at requesting and using referrals.

You’d be wrong.

Too many salespeople, business owners and professionals make the same mistakes over and over again, costing themselves sales and profits. That’s deadly to your career and your business. Here are the common behaviors to avoid:

1. Not asking
Whether out of fear of being rejected or because they don’t want to appear as a pest, many—if not most—salespeople simply don’t ask in the first place. Understand this, however: If you’ve delivered a great product and/or service, your customer wants to give you referrals. You just need to ask.

2. Asking at the wrong time
If you ask for referrals before your prospect has had a chance to become your customer and develop sufficient trust in you, you’ll be shot down every time. Worse, it will harm your relationship with your prospect. The best time to ask for referrals is after you’ve delivered value. Once you, your company and your product have proven yourselves, you have a green light.

3. Not asking everyone
Everybody in your network who knows and trusts you is a potential source of referrals. Don’t ignore anyone.

4. Being too broad when asking
The average person knows hundreds of people. But that’s too big a mental database for most people to sift through at once. Instead, help them narrow their focus: “Who else in your family…” “Who else in your company…” “Who else among your colleagues…”

5. Not asking often enough
When it comes to requesting referrals, once is not enough. People meet people. Companies grow and shrink. People who didn’t have a need last year may have a need this year. So ask periodically. (Daily might be a little too often.)

6. Failing to follow up
Too many salespeople are bad at follow up in general. But when you fail to follow up with a referral, it makes the person who referred you look bad as well. When someone gives you a referral, treat it with VIP status.

7. Not rewarding referrals
If you gave someone a referral and they didn’t acknowledge it, you wouldn’t be very likely to give them any more in the future. By contrast, if you received a thank-you note, a gift or a check from them, you’d keep your eyes and ears peeled for more opportunities. Be sure to reward the people who provide you with referrals, ideally as soon as they provide one, and again if the referral ends up buying.

If you’ve committed any or all of these sins, don’t chastise yourself too much. We’ve all committed them at some point in our sales careers. (I know I have.) Forgive yourself, and for your penance, call ten people who know, like and trust you and ask them for a referral.

You many not get ten, but you’ll get more than if you didn’t ask at all.

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