Episode #351: Steve Hall

A Successful Referral Program is Built on Trust


Steve Hall

Steve Hall, Executive Sales Coaching MD, is Australia’s leading C Level Sales Authority. A contributor to Top Sales Magazine, he has won several awards for webinars, podcasts & keynotes. His  “How to Sell at C Level” program teaches what executives care about, how to schedule meetings and how to uncover major sales opportunities. Visit SellingatCLevel.com

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Most people think of referrals as going to customers and saying, “Now that you love me, who else might love me? Who might want to buy our stuff?” If you’re trying to find new prospects to sell to, this is great. But Steve believes there’s a better way. It starts with knowing your market, knowing who you’re trying to target, and finding people who can help you get to them. Steve shares how he makes this strategy come to life in this episode of Sales Reinvented!

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:07] What are referrals? How do they work in sales
  • [2:19] Common mistake sand how to avoid them
  • [4:09] Can you leverage social media to generate referrals?
  • [5:53] Steve’s advice for those just getting started with referrals
  • [8:32] How to measure the success of a referral program
  • [9:53] How to ask for a referral without being pushy
  • [10:14] Best practices for asking for client referrals
  • [11:26] The role of technology in referral selling
  • [12:17] Steve’s top 3 referral selling dos and don’ts
  • [14:31] Create a referral chain to build your business

Common mistake sand how to avoid them

Anyone that knows—and is trusted by—the person you’re trying to connect with can refer them to you. That person doesn’t have to be a client. You can even ask for referrals from people who didn’t end up buying from you.

Secondly, you don’t have to wait until your client is achieving some sort of result with your product or service. If your client trusts you and is happy with the sales process, you can ask any time. Remember that it’s not an imposition. People like to help. Just make the process simple. Rather than asking who they know, give them a chunk of names and ask if they know any of them.

If Steve is going to ask someone for a referral, there needs to be a level of trust. That depends on a good relationship. Your referral sources are loaning you their trust and credibility.

Steve’s advice for those just getting started with referrals

You have a much better chance of getting business if it’s a referral, so it’s worth putting thought and effort into. You need to be trustworthy and credible. Similarly, the person doing the referring needs to be trustworthy and credible. You also need to know why you want to speak to someone. Lastly, you need to make the process as easy as possible so someone will say “yes.” People want to help but won’t go out of their way.

Steve’s top 3 referral selling dos and don’ts

Steve shares some straightforward tips:

  • Be genuine and honest. Tell someone what you want to do and why you want to do it. 
  • Make the referral process as easy as possible because they’re doing you a favor.
  • Focus. Start with the people and company you want to get to and work from there.
  • Be trustworthy and credible; if people don’t trust you, they won’t refer people to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. What’s the worst that could happen?
  • Don’t just focus on clients—anyone can refer you. 
  • Don’t make it about you. You want to help the person you’re being referred to. 

Ultimately, a good referral comes down to trust. Is your referral source trustworthy? Do they trust you? If you’ve built that foundation of trust, you’re more likely to get referrals that become clients.

Create a referral chain to build your business

Steve was doing some work with a company that sold smart water meters. They wanted to get into industries with government bodies and those in scientific professions. Steve connected with one of the top water conservation scientists in Australia. He called him and asked if he knew anything about smart water meters. They got into a conversation. 

During their conversation, Steve asked him for other important names in the industry. He called those other people and said “I was just chatting with…” and asked for conversations. He met with two dozen people by creating a referral chain. The company he worked with got penetration into the industry. They are now the leading supplier of smart water meters in Australia. 

The more people you know, the stronger your basis of influence. Build relationships based on what people are interested in. Learn to understand each other. Show that you care about what they think. Share that you have a solution to a problem that they care about. Build upon that to make connections with other people. 

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Learn More About Steve Hall

Are there any books, podcasts, or classes on Referral Selling that you recommend? Not specifically, although of course I’d recommend Joanne Black’s books. 

In the field of ‘Referral Selling’ – Who do you most admire and why? Joanne Black – she’s made a successful career out of it.

How can salespeople track and measure the success of their referral program? Simple. a) how many referrals lead to meetings; b) how many meetings do they get via referrals per month; c) how many people provide referrals when asked. 

What are some common reasons why customers may not provide referrals, and how can salespeople overcome these obstacles? a) salespeople make it too hard (wanting written referrals, emails sent, etc) b) ask too much. All you need to ask is “can i use your name?” 

What is the difference between a referral, an introduction and a lead? A referral & an introduction are more or less the same. God knows what a lead is, it’s defined so many different ways. To me it is a company, and ideally a relevant person in that company, where you have reason to believe they have a need for what you sell.   

How do you determine which customers to target for referrals, and what are some effective strategies for reaching out to them? a) Every customer should be targeted. If they are happy & you have a good relationship – and you make it easy for them to say yes – there should be no problem. If they aren’t happy or you don ‘t have a good relationship you need to know about it so you can fix it.

What are some potential risks or downsides to relying heavily on referrals for new business, and how can sales teams mitigate these risks? There are few risks in asking for referrals – unless you don’t look after your customers, which means you shouldn’t be selling anyway. But you don’t want to rely on any one strategy – you should always have several things you use to get meetings with leads/prospects

Finally, what advice would you give to salespeople who are looking to launch a referral program or improve their referral generation skills? a) Don’t be scared. They can only say yes or no & either way you need to know how they feel. b)  Make it easy for them to say yes. c) c) Don’t ask “do you know anyone….” – they’ll think briefly but won’t be able to name a lot. Know your target market and ask “do you know any one at these companies?” and give them a list. Better still, start with the company and person/people you want to reach and look for people who you know, that trust you and that know them and are trusted by them. c) Don’t ask the world. Just ask “do you know this person”. If they do, ask “Would it be OK if I mentioned your name?” and if they say yes ask “What can you tell me about her/him and your relationship”.

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