There’s nothing better in sales than getting a referral. You immediately bypass the cold calling phase, have a level of credibility instantly established, and start off the relationship on a positive note.
Unless, of course, you screw it up.
The problem is that most sales people make a key mistake when receiving a referral introduction – they jump right into sales mode. Imagine a friend of yours introduces you to a nice person that they think you might like to date. You respect your friend’s judgment (hopefully) and are interested in talking to this person. But when you meet this person they immediately hit you with all the reasons they would be a great person to marry. Regardless of how perfect a fit they might have been for you, you likely are turned off by the approach and they lose their chance to get to develop a relationship with you.
It's the same thing with referral introductions. A networking contact makes an introduction to a potential prospect, and we jump right in talking about how great we are and what we can do to solve the problems we think we know they have. What we should be doing is taking this opportunity to develop a relationship – do that and the sales will naturally follow.
How should you respond to a referral introduction? Next time someone introduces you to one of their contacts, start by thanking them for the referral. Then ask the referred contact for a brief phone call to introduce each other properly and get to know a little more about each other. Let them know up front that you don’t know if you can help them right now, but that it would be advantageous to both of you to talk and at least add each other to your networks. Let the relationship develop gradually and naturally so that when they are ready to buy, it’s an easy choice for them. And make sure to send them a LinkedIn invite right after your first call, when you are fresh in their minds and are most likely to accept your invite.
So the next time you get that coveted referral, remember to play it cool and don’t immediately start talking wedding. I’m confident you’ll find that this approach will give you the opportunity to develop more relationships, and ultimately results in more referrals converted into clients.