Sales Coaching: Top 4 reasons holding you back from more referrals

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The power of referrals in the world of sales is undeniable. Dale Carnegie, the acclaimed author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “Ninety-one percent of people say they will give referrals, yet only 11% of salespeople ask for them”. These statistics, however, may be even more modest today, with some estimates suggesting that only 5% or fewer of sales professionals actively seek referrals. The question is why don’t salespeople ask for referrals more often, despite the undeniable benefits? In this Sales Coaching article, we delve into the top reasons behind this phenomenon and explore how a seasoned car salesman, Robbie Robberts, redefined the art of referrals through exceptional service and a well-crafted system.

1. Fear and unearned referrals
One primary reason salespeople don’t ask for referrals is that they have not yet earned them. Providing value and creating a great customer experience are crucial prerequisites for soliciting referrals. Many sales professionals hesitate because they fear that their service or product hasn’t left a strong enough impression.

2. Fear of rejection
Fear of hearing the word no can be paralysing, but in sales, rejection is part of the game. If a salesperson is afraid to ask for referrals due to this fear, they may need to reassess their suitability for the field.

3. Passive referral expectations
Some salespeople fall into the trap of passive referral expectations. They hope that their satisfied customers and network will refer them without prompting. However, as the age-old saying goes, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Many customers may not realise that you welcome and need referrals unless you make it explicit.

4. Referrals as a bonus, not a process
Sales professionals often view referrals as a pleasant bonus rather than an integral part of their sales process. Robbie Robberts, the legendary car salesman, has demonstrated that referrals can be the lifeblood of one’s sales strategy, accounting for a significant portion of business.

Robbie Robberts: A referral success story
Robbie Robberts, an icon in South African car sales, shattered records by consistently selling an astounding 32 motor vehicles monthly, amounting to a remarkable 384 annually for 34 consecutive years. This incredible feat was achieved not through arrogance or begging for referrals but through the delivery of exceptional service.

Robbie’s secret to referral success is rooted in the notion that sales begins with S and that S stands for service. He believes that exceptional service is what drives customers to become your sales force. Robbie explains that his customers weren’t just buying a car; they were initiating a lifetime of exceptional service that he consistently delivered.

A profound example from Robbie’s career was congratulating a couple on their 50th wedding anniversary, despite them not buying a car from him in the last decade. He emphasised that his customers became advocates for him because of the exceptional service and experiences they received.

Robbie’s referral success came from having a systematic approach. He demonstrated that a staggering 50% of his sales throughout his illustrious career came from referrals. His approach proves that referrals are not haphazard but a structured system of leveraging satisfied customers to create a thriving sales network.

Salespeople often miss out on the powerful benefits of referrals because they hesitate to ask, don’t provide value, or simply hope for referrals to happen passively. The success of legendary sales figures like Robbie Robberts underscores that referrals should be viewed as an integral part of the sales process, driven by the exceptional service and systematic engagement of satisfied customers. By providing value, asking for referrals, and fostering a culture of exceptional service, sales professionals can unlock the true potential of referrals and propel their careers to new heights.

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” – Nora Roberts (author)

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