A lot has changed in sales over the past 50 years.  One thing hasn’t.  Sales Referrals continue to be the highest quality leads. However, most sales organizations are awful at generating referrals.  I will explain why.


3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Enough Quality Sales Referrals


  1. Accountability – your team can ask for them.  The customer will tell you he’s done it, but you never know for sure.
  2. Not Effective – no process exists.  When sales people have to invent their own method each time, they ignore it.  Or they ask, but they don’t ask with a specific buyer in mind.  This leads to poor quality sales referrals.
  3. Reach – Not casting a wide enough net.  Sales people focus on easy referral methods that don’t produce enough referrals.


describe the imageDue to these three factors, Sales Leaders look for other lead generation sources.  They don’t view referrals as a source capable of producing enough leads.  There is no question the quality is superior to any other source. 


Download the tool below to unleash the power of a great sales referral program.  It is the World Class Referral Request Template. 


The Key Benefits of this tool are:


  • Get more referrals
  • Target high quality buyers
  • Make it easy for your customers to give you referrals



There are 5 methods to generate sales referrals


  1. Happy Customer – you do a great job so I will refer you.  Good source, but not enough quantity.
  2. By another vendor– another vendor refers you into a customer with hopes that you return the favor.  I scratch your back and you scratch mine.  Good source, but not enough quantity.  Also, most reps don’t scratch back and this source dies off.
  3. From a friend – who do you know that I can talk to?  This source usually doesn’t produce enough sales referrals.
  4. For a prize – “give us a name and we give you”.  This one may drive high quantities, but the quality is typically lower.  People give you garbage names for a prize.
  5. Social – an online connection.  Why is social so effective at generating referrals? Social gives you visibility, access, and reach.


We will focus on social because it creates the largest quantity of quality leads. 



Why Social Rises to the Top

1. Visibility – unlike many of the methods listed above, you can specifically target potential buyers.  When you ask customers for referrals, they say, “I can’t think of anyone”.  Instead, ask them to introduce you to Bob Smith at Acme.  Provide the introduction language as well.  Being specific makes it easy for them to execute for you.


Here is an example of a poor referral request:


describe the image


Click here to get an example of a World Class Referral Request Template.  Using this template will get your more referrals now. 


2. Access – LinkedIn provides multiple paths to each buyer.  You can ask for an introduction through each path until you are successful.  This increases your chances of reaching the buyer.  And since LinkedIn is not a clogged channel, people respond to your requests more often. 


3. Reach – you can build a large database of referral sources.  You can organize this database with the LinkedIn contacts functionality.  These referral sources have connections that you can view and so on.  Most of your buyers use LinkedIn.  It is just a matter of building a strategy to get introduced. 



5 Steps to Obtain Referrals as a Form of Lead Generation:

  1. describe the imageIdentify Referral Source
  2. Build Referral Database
  3. Create Social Debt
  4. Obtain Referrals
  5. Iterate


Interested in Getting Started?

Referrals are a powerful source of leads.  First, you have to create great LinkedIn profiles and build your network.  This requires a systematic approach. Second, you need a referral process in place to ensure the team executes properly.  Building a great referral program that is widely adopted by the field is not easy.  Third, you need to ensure it is enabled with the right technology.  LinkedIn is the best way to enable a referral program.  Good luck.



Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

Read full bio >