How to Ask For Referrals and Get Them


How to get referralsEvery sales manager would love to have a Joe Girard on his/her sales team.

Girard is the greatest salesperson ever to have walked a car dealership’s lot.  During his illustrious 15-year career, he sold more than 13,000 automobiles.  His records include selling 18 in one day, 174 in one month, and a whopping 1,425 in a single year.  His success has been chronicled in several books, including the Guinness Book of World Records, which lists him as the “world’s greatest salesman.”

What was it about Girard that made him so effective?  He was a hustler, no doubt. He was creative, to be sure.  And he followed the basic sales process:

  • Know the products
  • Find the prospects
  • Approach said prospects
  • Assess their needs
  • Present your product
  • Close the deal

That’s Sales 101 material.  Every green-horned, fresh-out-of-school salesperson follows the same steps.  But if you’re a sales manager, you’ll have to make sure your reps know – and are willing to do – far more than that to take selling to the next level.

He may have been in retail sales, but there are still a few pages B2B sales reps can take from Girard’s playbook.  It all boils down to this:  if you know your customers and prove you care about them, you can ask them for referrals, and they’ll give them to you.

Know your customers.

When you remember what your customers tell you about themselves, they know what they said was important to you.  Girard kept copious notes about every customer and prospective customer he ever met.  He used the notes to remember their birthdays, anniversaries, their children’s names and ages, and whatever else they shared with him.  Which is to say he used the notes to remember what was important to them.

Your sales team can do the same, especially if you combine the power of social media with the power of an effective CRM system.  Good salespeople know their products and services, but the best salespeople get to know their customers almost as well.  They know how to listen to what customers say and ask the right questions to find out how they think and what they value.  This enables them to talk about their offering in a way that connects with each individual customer and what’s important to him or her.

Care for your customers.

“How’s the car working out for you? Great? Wonderful! Give me a call when you need a new one.”

These are words Girard never uttered.  Instead, Girard probably told the customer he’d follow up later to make sure the customer was still satisfied with the purchase. He followed up regularly, and in meaningful ways, like the cards he sent.  He knew that sooner or later his past customers would need another car – and so would their kids, friends, and family – and he wanted them to buy the car from him when they did.  The personal attention was just part of caring for his customers.

In the world of B2B sales, the best salespeople don’t simply represent their own products and services, they also serve as educators for their customers.  They stay on top of industry trends, they know what other solutions your customers might benefit from experiencing, and they aren’t afraid to tell them how they can leverage it – even if it doesn’t result in a sale right away.  They do this because they have integrity and they care about their customers more than they care about making a sale.  Customers and prospective customers appreciate this kind of authenticity and help.  So give your reps permission and train them to help in this way.

Ask for referrals and watch them flow in.

Asking customers for referrals is one of the most overlooked steps in an exceptionally effective sales process. It’s also one of the absolute best ways to expand a prospect list and simply sell more stuff.

Girard knew that every sale had the potential to lead him to 250 other prospects.  He always asked for referrals from his customers.  And he never felt awkward doing it because he knew that everyone likes to be the expert or “have a guy” who can “hook you up.”  Customers like helping their friends and families, and they like being asked for help.  It makes them feel like they are valued and not just a cog in a machine.

The old saying, “Take care of your customers, and they will take care of you,” is true.  Make sure your reps fully understand what taking care of their buyers means, and you’ll never have a problem keeping a full sales pipeline.

Want help training your reps to deliver the kind of care that keeps the pipeline full?

Contact me for a free consultation on learning options today!


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