Blustery conditions are expected in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Even so, the athletes will surely be donning their country colors with pride and preparing to give their best as the competitions heat up. With consideration for elite competition and reaching the top of your game, now is the perfect time to warm up those cold calls to build your pipeline.
One approach to taking the frigid edge out of cold calling is to secure a referral so that the “cold” call is actually a “warm” call. Research shows opportunities that begin with referrals or introductions have higher close rates and are often non-competitive. Harvard Business Review reports that peer recommendations influence more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions. I’ve seen sales experts claim “referral selling” increases prospect-to-client conversion rates by 50 to 90%. The Wharton School of Business reports the lifetime value for new referral customers is 16% higher than non-referrals.
By all counts, it’s worth the time to be recommended by someone before you make the call.
What are some ways to build your prospect pipeline from referrals? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Strike while you’re hot. One of the best times to ask for a referral is right after a client has had a good experience with you and appears happy with the results of your services. According to a Texas Tech study, 83% of satisfied customers are willing to provide referrals. Ask for names and introductions to others– suppliers, customers, partners, colleagues in other business units—they know who may benefit as well. While it’s best to get an introduction and testimonial, if that isn’t possible, ask if you can use their name when contacting someone for a meeting.
Be specific and act immediately. When you ask for a referral, be specific on what you are asking for. Describe your ideal prospect, such as a VP of engineering in a tech company, the head of R&D for a pharmaceutical organization, a mid-sized business in the Kansas City market. This may prompt someone to consider a contact they otherwise would have forgotten. Once you get a referral, take action immediately. Referrals have a time value, and procrastinating can be detrimental and damage your credibility.
Show gratitude, regardless of the outcome. After you receive a referral or introduction, thank the person immediately after you contact the prospect, regardless of what happens. Once the meeting has taken place, follow up with the person who made the referral and let him or her know the outcome. Did you win the sale? Can they help again with a testimonial?
Network, network, network. Social networks have opened more opportunities to connect with others beyond physical boundaries and communities in a fraction of the time. In-person meetings are still important, but by broadening and nurturing all types of networks, you’ll fare better at gaining an introduction when you need one.
Many sales people don’t network enough because they don’t think their ideal prospect is at the event or online. That’s the wrong approach to networking. It’s a small world in which we live. As you meet people, you never know if, or when, your next customer is in THEIR network—a prospective client’s neighbor, tennis partner or college roommate—and how they may be able to help you.
The trust and credibility that comes with a personal introduction and good word on your behalf remains an effective way to get someone to take your “warm” call. Be timely, specific, and grateful in using your professional and social networks to cultivate referrals and build your prospect pipeline. In doing so, you improve the chances of beginning productive conversations that ultimately lead to great, long-term business partnerships.