Account Executive

October 5, 2022

How to Ask for Referrals in B2B Sales (Templates)

Sales Referrals = FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

It isn't just some Gen Z thing. It’s a human phenomenon thing.

Consider Squid Games.

We both know you scrolled past it on Netflix for the first 2 weeks before the momentum shift.

Then slowly, by word-of-mouth, one friend won’t stop talking about it.

And the memes were getting out of hand.

You watch a trailer. Thinking: “I’ll give it one episode.”

Next thing you know, it’s 1:30am, you’re four episodes in, & that 9:00am meeting is gonna need more than a strong cup of coffee.

That’s the power of what we’re talking about here.

Sales referrals work the same way

You’ve built an authentic relationship with someone & gained real trust.

Leverage that trust to drive more value to them, you, and their friend (your referral).

Sales referrals have one of the highest conversion rates.

Yet they’re consistently under-utilized as a prospecting channel.

Here’s exactly how to ask for sales referrals after (& during) your sales process.

What is a sales referral?

A sales referral is when a customer or prospect introduces someone in their network.

These intros serve as a warmer way to pitch your product/service over pure cold outreach.

As with all things, there's a right & a wrong way to the approach. We’ll discuss the right one*.

(*in our humble opinion)

Why are they crucial to the sales process?

Assume you’re invited to a tailgate. You know football, food, drinks, games, etc.

The first question you probably ask: whose going?

Why? Because you’re always more likely to go if you know some of the people going.

Similarly, when someone you know introduces you to their friend, guards are lowered.

It’s significantly easier to start a conversation & build a new relationship.

“9 in 10 buying decisions are made from peer recommendations”, according to Harvard Business Review.

Sales are based on two major aspects:

  • Do they trust you as a person?
  • Do they trust your company can deliver?

That trust is earned faster from a friendly intro.

Because you were invited to the tailgate by a trusted friend, you’re more confident in it being worth your time.

We as sales pros should be chasing referrals more often every chance we get.

Who to ask for a referral?

Most of your referrals will come from prospects and customers.

Typically from a single customer, a “power user”. Or perhaps someone with a deep network.

Either way, leveraging customers is the most natural way to ask.

Prospects are your second best bet.

As you build trust with your prospects - keep in mind that as they evaluate you, they are also checking out your competition.

They’re reaching out & gathering opinions from peers…whether their peers know or not.

This process can open a ton of doors.

Post-onboarding customer referrals (1-2 weeks after closing)

As you bring new customers on board, run ‘temperature checks’ 2-3 weeks after onboarding & after 2-3 months as full customers.

Doing this gives you a natural reason for reaching out. First of all see if they are even happy with the solution at this point. Because we trust you already, let’s assume they are happy… Now what?

When & how to ask a new customer for referrals?

It’s time to ask.

A big problem we see is when people ask for referrals, they use lines like these:

  • “Is there anyone that you would recommend x to? "
  • “Can you introduce me to someone you think might be interested?”

Why do these questions suck?

It puts the work on your customer to go through their network & think of someone to refer.

The goal in sales is always to REMOVE barriers, not create them. Make it as easy as possible.

How do you do the work for them?

Find your ideal referral in their network first. Then you make the ask:

“Hey (name), I noticed you’ve been reading this article to level up your referral game. I think your team would benefit from this as well. Can you drop this blog link in your team slack channel?”

See how specific the ask was? I’m not asking them to think of someone to share this with.

I’m telling them exactly who I believe would benefit from reading an article.

Use these templates as a framework (replace X with your variables):

Customer Referral Templates

Strategic connection on LinkedIn:
“Hey (name), I noticed that you’ve engaged with X content on LinkedIn.
They’ve been on my radar for a while now, and I’d love to see if we can help them solve xyz.
Could you introduce me?”

Worked at target company in the past:
“Hey (name),
Having recently made the switch from (former company), I imagine you crossed paths/worked closely with (target prospect).
Was (problem we solve for them) a problem there as well?
If so, against making an intro to explore it?

The best part about customers…they already value your solution.

If they bought it/use it, naturally they’ll be more likely to introduce their network.

Now ease the burden on your customers, do the heavy lifting, and ask anyone you work with.

Prospecting Referrals (after initial outreach)

So what about prospects?

First off, build referrals into every aspect of your deals. Have a Sales Referral Strategy.

That way it becomes repetitive and consistent in quality of approach.

When & how to ask a prospect for referrals?

Initial outreach

Let’s start with the hardest part about referrals from prospects:

Because they aren’t using the solution yet, they can’t speak to how good your product is.

Now for the best part: It’s less about your product and more about you.

Meaning if you provide a high-quality experience from the beginning, you’ll have more trust and earn the ability to ask for referrals.

From the beginning means from the first touch-point. Think cold call or email.

If you’re sending quality personalized emails and you get a response like:

“Appreciate the outreach, but we use (competitor)”,

It’s time to capitalize on the fact that they liked the outreach. Use this framework:

Prospect Referral Templates

Strategic connection on LinkedIn:
“Hey (name), thanks for the response and info. Sounds like you’re squared away.
I noticed you’re connected with (name of another prospect on LinkedIn).
They’ve been on my radar for a while, and I’d love an opportunity to chat with them.
I’ll be sure to take the same approach with them as I did with you. Against an intro?”

Worked at another target company in the past:
“Hey (name), thanks for the response and info. Sounds like you’re squared away.
Having recently left (past company), wondering if you know (prospect at past company)?
I’d love an intro if you think they may find something like this useful.
You can copy/paste this message:
"Hey (name), can’t believe it’s been # months/years since leaving the team. I’ve been keeping tabs and looks like everyone is still doing great things. I wanted to intro you to (your name). They're doing something pretty cool in the (industry) space. We use (competitor) here, but thought it might be worth a chat for you. If (your name) is overbearing, just kick em to the curb, no harm done. I’ll let you take it from here."

Pre & post-discovery or demo

Before, during, & after sales meetings (discovery or demos) are great opportunities to ask for referrals.

Here’s Gavin Tice, of ConnectAndSell, explaining his approach on the How I Deal podcast:

More often than not, prospects took the discovery meeting because they recognize a problem. Then they continue to a demo because they see value in your solution.

But sometimes the timing is off, or the budget isn’t available & they can’t move forward.

A natural transition can be to ask:

“Hey while it’s not the right time, it seems like you see value in solving (problem) with a solution like (your company). Do you know anyone else who might benefit?”

You’re probably thinking: “Hey you said before not to make the prospect do any work thinking about referrals.”

This is correct & good catch. Try to come armed with a name or two, if possible.

But we’ve found during a face-to-face meeting or call, prospects are more likely to think of a name on the spot.

Choose your own adventure on the ask & A/B test the results to find what's most effective.

Build a Sales Referral Strategy

As you can see, there are a ton of levers to pull when sourcing referrals & making the ask.

It’s not a typical inclusion in the traditional sales process. But Account Executives that build out a sales referral strategy are the ones crushing quota quarter after quarter.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Explore every opportunity for referrals in your customer acquisition process & get to testing!

You'll like these emails 🥒

Pickle writes to their friends every few weeks with spicy tips to make their wall-to-wall meetings suck less.
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