How To Build Referrals With Social Sales

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Who wants referrals? You do, that’s who. Everybody loves referrals and what’s not to love about them! Somebody knows somebody else who can potentially use your product or service and they have advised that person that you are numero uno. While this could be a topic for another article, you would also like to be able to identify those who will most likely provide these referrals. Still, referrals can be cultivated from virtually anybody if you try!

If you really want to get those great referrals, the first skill that you must learn to master is how to earn them. Earning can best  be accomplished via the consistent application of three general methods.

Make yourself referral worthy!

Method #1 – Be Awesome!

You have to realize this simple fact. When somebody refers you to one of their good clients or friends, it is their neck that is being potentially placed on the chopping block. If the referral works out great for both parties, they are the heroes and being seen as such in the eyes of their client is one of the actions that will elevate them, from “vendor” to “trusted advisor”. However, if the person that they refer turns out to be a loser, they will be the bigger one. Their status with their client has now been reduced from “vendor” to that of “vendor with a poor judge of character”. Ouch!

I’m a funny guy. I keep a mental scorecard on everybody I meet in business as a part of my process for determining whether or not that person is “referral worthy”. The basis for this is my belief that, as I interact with you personally, I can expect you to exhibit these same behaviors with anybody that I might introduce you to. Why would I think otherwise? So, I am looking for people who:

  • Are consistently professional
  • Always honest
  • Show that they are responsive
  • Display promptness
  • Treat our business dealings with respect

While I might like you personally, and this is a part of the equation, it’s not enough for me to decide whether or not I will be willing to refer you. I certainly might have much to gain from initiating this referral but, the potential risk of this going badly cannot exceed the potential benefits. Actually, this risk has to be non-existent. I buy from the same kind of people who I refer: those that I like, trust, and respect. So … be awesome!

Method #2 – Get to know me!

As discussed, if I like, trust, and respect you, the likeliness of my referring you increases. The best way to do this is to make the touches (engage with me). However, if you bring me donuts I will instantly know exactly what you are up to so, at least make them apple fritters (my favorites). Seriously, your overtures must be perceived as being both genuine and thoughtful. Here are some examples of how we can to this socially:

  • Retweet and reply to my updates.
  • Comment and like my posts.
  • Leave comments on my articles. Start with this one :)
  • Connect with somebody who you think would be valuable to me.
  • Send me an article that you know I will like.
  • While I appreciate your endorsements on LinkedIn, please wait until you feel comfortable enough to write me a recommendation. If you still wish to endorse me, please be sure that it is for an actual skill that I have and not one where I need to look up its definition.
  • My business life is pretty much an open book. I have a lot of folks who reach out to me and the first question that they ask me is to “tell them a little bit about myself”. They probably got my email address off of my website. Did they even look at that or maybe even my profile on LinkedIn? No and it is annoying. 

Method # 3 – Provide Referrals!

One of the best way to get referrals has always been to give them. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Recently I have seen a new term being bantered about … “creating social debt”. Does this suggest that we should only perform action “A” in order to receive action “B” in return? No but, this is still called “real life” and I will admit that I find the term to be strangely intoxicating. In other words … I love it just as much as I also love giving referrals for the sheer joy of doing do!

Next let’s dissect the referral itself. If you wish to receive quality referrals, you will need to also master …

  1. How to give a quality referral
  2. How to teach others to provide you with quality referrals

What makes for a great referral?

Please choose one from the following:

  • “I gave your name to somebody the other day and they should be calling you.”
  • “You should call Fred at ABC Company. Please don’t use my name but, they may need your product or service.”
  • “Steve, I spoke with Fred Smith over at ABC Company the other day and I was telling him about your services. Fred is interested in learning more and is expecting a call from you. He can be reached at 867-5309 and please be sure to use my name.”

It’s pretty easy to choose when you see the options in black and white, isn’t it? Now that you have been given this great referral, be sure to thank the person who referred you, let them know that you have followed-up, keep them informed of your progress, and then thank them again! Some folks will reward those who refer them with a gift card or something similar. A friend of mine has a policy to always reward the action, not the result. In other words, just because this referral did not work out it does not mean that I don’t appreciate your efforts! Good policy.

Teach others how to give great referrals!

Now what we need to do is to teach others how to give us these same excellent referrals

Steve, as you know, a large part of my business is based on receiving referrals from great customers like you and I have really appreciated all of these that you have provided me! When you do run into somebody who you think I could be of help to, could you please tell them a bit about me, let them know to expect my call, and then get their contact info to me? In this way I can be sure to get with them right away and then keep you informed of my progress with them. Thanks!”

The simple fact is that most “referrals” suck because we don’t know how to give them and our customers have never been taught any differently. The responsibility for both lies with us.

Creating Social Debt

What is it, how do we create it, and how do we leverage it? Sales Benchmark Index (a great resource) defines it as …

“Social Debt is the act of doing something of perceived value for an individual. This predisposes them when prompted to ‘Return the Favor.’  When you ‘Pay It Forward’, the receiving person realizes you do something unnecessary.  This act creates a ‘debt’ in their mind.  Each time you help that person the debt increases.  Over time, you then have earned the right to ask.  Ask for a referral, introduction to someone, or simply advice.”

This definition, and a great article titled “The New Sales Leader Currency – Social Debt”, can be found at their website. They explain it better than I could ever hope to so I would encourage you to read it and, Sales Benchmark Index … you owe me :)

Craig Jamieson
Craig M. Jamieson contributes a monthly column on Social Selling. Craig has been in B2B sales since 1977 and during that time has served in a variety of positions including; sales manager, division sales manager, national sales manager, district manager, and as a business owner. He is the managing partner of Adaptive Business Services in Boise, Idaho which owns and operates NetWorks! Boise Valley B2B Networking Groups, is a Nimble Social CRM & HootSuite Solution Partner, a TTI Performance Systems VAA, and Craig also conducts workshops and seminars relating to sales and social business applications. +Craig Jamieson
Craig Jamieson


Social Sales Trainer and Author Helping Businesses To Increase Their Revenues, Nimble SCRM Solution Partner, TTI VAA, Own & Operate a B2B Networking Group
The Very Best of Social Sales! is out! Stories via @silvia_scrofani @ageifman - 2 hours ago
Craig Jamieson
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  1. says

    I love this article. I am a huge fan of referring others…. in fact I have a Google+ post that offers anyone who has a small business to give me their site and a brief description of what they do and I post it to my circles with relevant hashtags. I do it just because I love helping others, not to benefit myself, but wow do I get some great kudos that i couldn’t generate any other way.

    • says

      Hi Lori
      my ambition is to have a successful courier service namely Abba Transport Solutions Ltd that will provide a legacy to my 3 daughters.
      Which should instill faith and confidence when the odds are stacked against you.
      This selfish act will help promote more joy and happiness to those who comes in contact with this venture.
      Take care

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