Referral sales strategies help generate more leads by having current customers provide contact details of new prospects. People are more likely to buy your product if it’s recommended by their friends or family, so sound referral sales strategies can significantly improve your bottom line. We asked experts for strategies to help you get quality sales referrals.
Here are 25 expert referral sales strategies to help boost your sales:
1. Use Your Email Marketing Campaign to Offer Rewards
Michael Leander, Consultant/Author, Clever Reach
You can increase your sales referrals by offering benefits to your customers through your email marketing campaign. By rewarding loyal customers, you encourage them to share the benefits with others. Once your customer has received a product or service, you can ask them how happy they are with this, and if so, ask if they would like to share their excitement via their social networks for further discounts/coupons— a win-win for both your business and customers. This works particularly well as it also nurtures potential customers, because they are more likely to trust their friends and family for recommendations, which is why social media is so effective at reaching a close audience to your customer.
2. Make Instagram (IG) Stories a Lead Generator
Dr. Lee Davenport, Business Educator, Learn With Lee
Instagram (IG) Stories have now passed more than 500 million daily actives. But just knowing that number means nothing if it does not translate into business. Enter: IG Stories polling feature. Polls in IG Stories can be used strategically to connect and reconnect with IG users. Often, people use polls for random shenanigans, but we can make sure our shenanigans have a “moral of the story”—business growth. Ask a captivating question based on your business, give two answer options that help you to identify potential leads, and then follow up with the potentials. With one IG Stories’ poll post, you could potentially walk away with several leads.
3. Offer a Free Trial or Sample
Francis Nwokike, Business Coach & Founder, The Total Entrepreneurs
Since your family, friends, colleagues, and online networks are most likely going to be your first customers, they naturally would love to see what you are up to. So, you should offer them a sample of your products. You can make smaller samples, give them to friends and family to test, and ask for feedback. Upon receiving favorable feedback, encourage them to talk about the products on social media, especially LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram (depending on the product) using hashtags, if they don’t mind. You can make them your ambassadors by printing customized T-shirts with your product name boldly written in front and their names on the back, like a soccer jersey. They will always be excited to talk about your product to anyone who asks about it. Remember to make sure they know all about the product.
4. Publish on LinkedIn
Mike Schiemer, Owner, Bootstrap Business
One of the best ways to get high-quality sales referrals from friends, family, colleagues, and connections is by publishing content consistently on LinkedIn. The first step is to make sure you are connected to all relevant friends, family, peers, and associates. LinkedIn makes this very simple with their contact importer feature, suggested connections (based on connections in common, usually), and ability to find past connections under company pages and colleges. This should be a consistent practice if you haven’t done so already. Once you have a strong connection base, it’s time to start publishing content consistently. I’d recommend sharing a piece of content that you wrote (or video that you created) at least once per week to your feed. If you don’t create content of your own, share something from a top industry publication and add some context to it.
5. Match Referral Actions to Perceived Risk
Jamie Cunningham, Owner, SalesUp! Business Coaching
There are varying levels of risk in referring, depending on your product, service, and price point. If you are a car wash service, the risk is reasonably low. If you are a financial advisor, the perceived risk is much higher. Make your referring action match the perceived level of risk. For example, a car wash service can give a free wash to you and “a friend” (the referral). For a financial advisor, it’s better to get clients to invite friends to an educational event or social function (golf, for example). Being invited to a seminar is low risk versus directly asking a client to refer a friend to become a client.
6. Get Your Friends and Family Involved
Vijay Chelakkat, Founder, LearnWoo.com
Whenever a friend or family member asks about your company, always try to make them understand the basic aspects of what the company does. Share your company vision even if they don’t understand everything and they will be able to make a connection next time someone mentions anything related to your industry. You can expect them to often, send a few referrals your way. Since such referrals already come with social proof directly from an acquaintance, they have better prospects for conversion as well. In my experience, it is always a good thing to let family, friends and casual acquaintances know more about your business and its premises.
7. Personalize Every Referral Partner’s Message
Vlad Mkrtumyan, CEO, Logic Inbound
Everyone hates generic outreach; no one wants to be treated like a number. Therefore, whenever I reach out, I use a customized script. Currently my script is: “Hello (blank name), how is (something we talked about) going? Would love to catch up on a 15-minute call, just thought of you.” Depending on how big the account might be, the more customized the message becomes. At minimum, I use the script above and reach out quarterly so people do not forget about our company.
8. Write Educational Content for Your Audience
Christopher Pappas, Founder, Elearning Industry
Industry-related networks and communities love to share valuable content, and this is exactly why you should get involved. Communities around your niche will help your brand awareness expand around the world, making it easier to reach businesses through talented professionals who have a thirst for knowledge. All you need to do is create educational content around your products or services. As you “teach” your prospects how to buy from you through your content, you will manage to drive them down the marketing funnel and convert your marketing qualified leads (MQLs) into sales qualified leads (SQLs).
9. Begin With Local Connections
Pushkar Gaikwad, CEO, AeroLeads
If you are selling a business-to-business (B2B) enterprise product, you can contact your friends who work in a similar industry to pitch or schedule a demo call. This may work out better than cold emails to the decision-makers of that company. You can also join local area business networking groups. Most of the time, you can only be part of one area and only one service provider in one area to avoid conflict of interest. This can actually work well with service providers like real estate agents, accounting, and so on, which often grow by word of mouth.
10. Learn From Your Competitors
Eric Bell, General Manager, Franchise Gator
Sometimes your best referrals will come from the unlikeliest of places—your competitors. Nothing negative can ever come from reaching across the aisle and introducing yourself to your competition—especially the one or two sales reps who your customers and prospects are continually hearing from. You have a lot in common with them. Use that to network with them frequently. They will no doubt meet a prospect or two who they do not have a solution for. Offering an alternative solution will go a long way with maintaining some sort of relationship with that prospect, and you want to be top of mind when that time comes.
11. Don’t Hesitate to Ask
Jake Eisenberg, President, Reach Digital
Everybody knows referrals are essential when it comes to building a pipeline for our business. I still find that one of the most common problems salespeople have is that they don’t ask for what they want. Asking for a referral can feel uncomfortable, so we try to avoid doing it at all costs. The word “referral” even typically has a negative connotation in sales. Think about when somebody asks you for a referral—the first thing you think about is your reputation, which is on the line. A common response is, “Let me think about it,” even after several meetings and interactions. One way to eliminate those fears and increase your referrals on a consistent basis is to develop a system.
12. Limit Your Referral Requests
Scott Ingram, Host, The Daily Sales Tips Podcast
Don’t ask for more than two introductions at a time. Most people aren’t willing to make a large number of referrals all at once. Instead, build trust over time. Get that initial referral or two, then report back on what happened. This is a perfect opportunity to then ask for another referral. If you can show that you treat their friends and family with respect and always let them know the result, you can continue to go back and ask for more. You may also find that they start to proactively refer you because they know you’re going to follow up and provide a great experience that reflects well on them.
13. Leverage Your LinkedIn Connections
Isaac Anderson, CEO, Zeeko™
If you haven’t already, connect with the person who’s willing to refer you on LinkedIn. This could be a client, friend, or colleague. Once connected, have your referrer write you a recommendation (on LinkedIn) for social proof when referrals check you out. Use your relationship with the referrer (and their recommendation as social proof) as common ground to start an intentional, relational conversation with referrals. To do that, you can find potential leads in your referrer’s network to whom you are also connected. Start a conversation using messaging (or email) to leverage your mutual connection as common ground. Find potential leads in your referrer’s network with whom you are not connected, send a connection request with a customized message, and follow the same process.
14. Be Specific With Your Target Referrals
John Hill, Founder, Adapted Growth
I have found that most people are not targeted enough when they make the referral ask. “Can you think of anyone that I should be talking to?” will get a response along the lines of, “I will let you know if I think of anyone.” I take it a few steps further and talk about the specific types of industries and people who I want to talk to and mention their pain. “Do you know of any small business founders or sales leaders who are frustrated with their sales team not hitting their targets that I should know?” The other thing to remember is that clients and networking connections are busy. I give people templates for how I like to be introduced so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I let them know that they can customize them as needed, but this helps me get referrals faster.
15. Tell the Referrer the Outcome
Beth Bridges, Networking Expert, The Networking Motivator
A lot of people are good at thanking people for referrals as soon as they get them, and that’s very important. But I always want to know how it turned out. And that might take weeks or months, but making the effort is worthwhile for a few reasons. First, it’s a good way to remind them that you love to get referrals without asking them for them. Second, it gives them reassurance that their referrals are good. Third, it’s social proof that they can use to get you more referrals (I referred Bob to them and now he’s been a repeat customer. You should call them, too.) Finally, it will give you a chance to follow up with that referrer and reinforce what made that lead or prospect so good for you.
16. Use a “Forward to a Friend” Tool
Lori Reeves, Online Marketing Success Strategist, Lori Reeves Marketing
Help your raving fans share the news about you, your company, and what you’re doing with a simple tool called Forward to a Friend. Many email marketing providers, including Mailchimp, make it extremely easy to ask your readers for referrals. Each time you mail your list, include the merge tag that will add that feature to your emails so they can easily be shared with others who would likely benefit from your content. A quick search within your email marketing provider’s help section should tell you how you can easily add this business-building tactic to your marketing efforts. And fear not: The person who receives the forwarded message can’t unsubscribe your reader because the message sent to them is unique and doesn’t include your subscriber’s unsubscribe link.
17. Network During Small Business Conferences
Jessica Rhoades, Owner & Designer, Create IT Web Designs
One of the best ways that I find some great customers is by networking at small business conferences and small business groups in my city. It’s a chance for me to find great clients, great resources, and also network with other like-minded folks. Asking questions about their business and passion and finding out all the wonderful ways their business helps others is inspiring. I always ask for a business card, connect with them through LinkedIn and Alignable, and follow up with them by email with a personal note of how nice it was to meet them. Not all of these relationships produce paid clients, but the chance to interact with some amazing people is always worth it.
18. Offer Discounts as Incentive
Ben Smith, IT Director, Arinda IT Services
Giving discounted service to clients can be a gem when offered to any business individual. Our company delivers IT services and most of the time, we receive recurring payments and transactions. When clients stay with us for more than three consecutive months, we provide a discount on their succeeding three months as an incentive. Loyalty discounts are bigger rebates for patrons who continue with us for more than a year. In addition, we give a commission whenever they refer a client to us. With these incentives, many of our clients remain, and what’s even better is the referrals our company gets with their partners, friends, and colleagues. The business grows and our clients are satisfied.
19. Create More Personal Contact
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
I think it is a mistake to hide behind technology and customer relationship management (CRM) systems when prospecting. My advice is to disconnect from technology and focus on cultivating human, face-to-face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch can accomplish so much more than email exchanges, social media posts, and so forth, and it is a great way to get to know people better—their interests, hobbies, and dreams. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business, and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation, but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time. I plan lunch meetings three days a week and invite clients to events I think they might enjoy attending to spend time together.
20. Do Your Research
Maya Holihan, President, Loyalty Networking
During the 30- to 60-second elevator pitch you’re given at a networking event, be very specific about the types of referrals you’re looking for—even specify particular companies or people you want to be introduced to. In order for this to work, you have to fully understand your business, who your target customer is, and have established goals and a vision plan. It also requires research on the professionals you will be networking with. The more you know about them, the easier it is to put your pitch and target list together. In order to see a return on your networking efforts, you have to do some advance preparation before you walk through the doors.
21. Use a Review Automation Software
Bailey Hahn, SEM Specialist, Summit Digital Marketing
Our digital marketing agency uses review automation software to increase online sales referrals for our clients. We utilize GetMoreReviews.com to customize emails and text messages for our clients’ contact lists. We refine the review process to only include two or three steps to make reviews easier to attain and convenient for the customer. We have increased organic search visibility for one of our clients by 27% in the last month just by adding reviews and referrals on their Google My Business local listing.
22. Stick to One Reward
Jason Lavis, Partner & Webmaster, Drillers
The best way that I know of is to offer specific incentives and rewards. Be honest and straightforward about it. Like the over-enthusiastic network marketers who are doing it wrong, you don’t want to be that person who bugs everyone they know. Stick to one reward that matches the profit in the sale and your network’s preferences, and be recognizable to customers for that incentive. Over the years, your good and realistic incentive plan will be spread by your network, leading to more referrals.
Use a catchy headline. Getting your target audience’s attention starts with a catchy headline. The same goes for attracting current customers and convincing them to refer your product or service. Great headlines are clearly worded and to the point, explaining the benefits of joining and making use of numbers. It’s also kept short to help quickly get your message across and immediately build intrigue. Examples: “Share with your friends and get $10,” “Refer and You Shall Receive,” “Give $100, get $100 for yourself.”
Chances are, some companies have missed opportunities to get more sales because customers aren’t aware that the business is open to referrals. This is unfortunate since there are free and simple steps you can add to your referral sales strategies to keep this from happening. Add a line to your email signature to say that you’re open for referrals. You can also include information about your sales referral strategies on your business card. By expressing your interest in referrals, loyal customers will be motivated to connect you with more sales prospects.
Productivity is important in every person’s life, so even the most loyal customers will forget sending referrals your way as they go about their busy lives. Providing incentives in exchange for referrals can help motivate your customers to spend their time endorsing your products to friends and families. Start a rewards program and build a structure that your customers can easily understand and follow. Look for providers like ReferralCandy that can help automate your program and make referrals an enjoyable experience for your customers.
A study from Duel Tech revealed that referred customers have better chances of conversion, spending as much as 25% on their initial purchase and making significantly more repeat purchases down the line. Maximize your profit with our list of tips for getting quality sales referrals from the pros.
Want to share your own referral sales strategies? Let us know in the comments.