Lets get one thing straight, just because someone gives you a business referral, doesn’t mean you automatically have a sale. This referral is simply an opportunity to do business with someone who you have been recommended to. If you can provide the expected products or services that the prospect is seeking and they are satisfied with the process, then you may have the privilege of doing business again. If you can’t get this first sale across the line your referral source will most probably dry up.
The issue here revolves around your ability to sell. Anyone who has experience in relationship marketing will tell you unequivocally that sales skills are essential as well as relationship marketing skills. In fact sales skills are needed in every part of the process, not just closing the sale.
Dr Ivan Misner the father of modern networking researched referrals versus sales in the early 90’s. He found that thirty four percent of referrals made between business’ owners resulted in recorded sales. An interesting statistic, not amazingly high, though significant for business owners in terms of the power of referrals versus sales.
Subsequent research by a university student replicating Misner’s original research conducted around ten years later revealed some more interesting facts. Thirty four percent of referrals made between business owners resulted in a recorded sale. Yes you are suffering from déjà vu. The exact same result as ten years before!
What does this mean for business people? Sales skills are important and some people are better at closing sales rather than others. However one does not exist without the other. You are thirty four percent more likely to make a sale if you get a referral and sales skills are an essential ingredient of that process. There are countless avenues available today to learn the art of sales
The worst thing that you can do after you receive a referral is to be aggressive, indecisive or evasive. The prospect wants and expects a high level of respect, service and professionalism. Remember this is a win-win situation and the better you come across at this stage, the better it will be for both parties. You get the business, they get the goods or service.
Once you meet your prospect, you have to persuade them to bring the sale to a close. This is what people think of when you suggest the term sale.
Third, once you’ve made the appointment, persuade the prospect to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when one hears the word “sale.” Integrity is paramount at this stage. The prospect should know exactly what to expect: no hidden charges, no unexpected exceptions and no bait-and-switch. If you’ve created a highly efficient system of generating referrals for your business, you’ll see a steady stream of referrals. This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be capable of closing any of them. It takes sales skills to turn prospects into new clients or customers.
The message about sales in referral marketing is this: If you’re not comfortable in sales or if you haven’t been professionally trained, sales training is a worthwhile investment. Keep this message in mind and it’ll serve you well in every aspect of relationship marketing.