B2B Sales

B2B Sales Referrals Outdated Concept: How to TransformAs I read Jill Konrath’s excellent post on how to ask for “referrals” and mistakes that most salespeople make, it occurred to me that salespeople could do even better by breaking that model completely. Jill’s excellent point is that salespeople are uncomfortable with asking for referrals, so they cop out and do it badly by using a throwaway “Do you know anyone..” But I would tweak her suggested, “Whom should I meet” even further by focusing on client, not [salesperson’s] company.

The Problem with Referrals

“Referrals,” asking existing clients for introductions to other prospects, are incongruent with trust-based business development because they are focused on the salesperson, not the client. To the client, there is no benefit other than supporting the salesperson, which is not neglibile but often not terribly compelling. Worse, “referring” the salesperson to other prospects introduces a significant risks to the client, which usually more than outweigh any peripheral benefit; if the salesperson offends the prospects, that reflects poorly on the client. Salespeople know this unconsciously, which adds to their discomfort.

How to Ask for Introductions While Being Congruent

In trust-based relationships, salespeople focus on solving problems while working collaboratively with clients. When the relationship is successful, and they have realized good outcomes together, it’s appropriate for the salesperson to ask the client who s/he knows that is frustrated by similar or related situations. So the context is serving other people who have specific problems, hence, more on client, not company.

Moreover, the “referrals” so gained will be of much higher quality because they will have a very specific business context, and the client joins the salesperson in serving another client (i.e. prospect) together, a much more satisfying result emotionally. And congruent with trust-based relationships.

What do you think? What is your experience?

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