Sales consultants tend to avoid asking for referrals because it feels awkward or they don't know how to ask. Considering that referrals provide THE strongest sales leads, it's worth overcoming your referral phobia to start leveraging satisfied customers for accelerated sales growth. Here are some tips to get you started:
When to Ask:
Obviously, you should never ask for a referral before you have satisfied your customer. Look for "moments" of peak customer satisfaction, such as immediately after a customer has experienced the benefits of your product or service. At this juncture, your inquiry about their satisfaction is both natural and appropriate. The other prime opportunity is anytime a customer pays you a compliment. When the referral wording has already been delivered, you just need to ask him or her to share that insight for the benefit of others inside or outside the organization.
How to Ask:
Model the behavior you want to see in your customers by looking for opportunities to provide referrals for them. Recruit leaders in your own organization to reach out and compliment customers on their professionalism or success in implementing your product or service. Recommend customers on LinkedIn, and make this practice part of your normal post-delivery sales cycle and integrate it into your sales strategy.
Make the referral request in a matter-of-fact manner. Even if making the request feels awkward at first, don't communicate your discomfort or position the referral as a HUGE favor. If you are asking at the right juncture (see above), it makes the request feel more like a natural consequence than a big ordeal.
Who to Ask:
Build a short list of your biggest fans in your customer base and start here. Launching your referral acquisition effort with customers who are loyal to you, your company and your product will make the effort much easier, and will build your confidence to move outward in your customer network.
Within the customer organization, it is most natural and appropriate to ask the individual with whom you worked most closely on the purchase and implementation. However, per the suggestion above, if someone from a higher level or another department pays you or your product a compliment, seize the moment to ask him or her to share their opinion.
Remember that while outstanding products, services or customer service are a prerequisite for referrals, they by no means guarantee them. The only certain way to get customer referrals as a sales consultant is to ask for them!