For Referrals Week, it only made sense to have Jamey Vumback on the show. He lives and breathes referrals and his company even built a referral platform for sales people and companies to use called Get The Referral.
In our conversation, he and I talk about:
- Why most salespeople don’t go for referrals
- Some sad statistics about salespeople’s efforts
- How well referrals close
- How to automate the follow up to nurture your pipeline
- And lot’s more…
Check this special episode. Below are links for where to find Jamey and his company online. And you can scroll down to find the transcript of our conversation.
Links from Jamey:
E24a – Transcript
Jason: On this special bonus episode for a referral week on The Sales Experience podcast, I have a very special guest, Jamie Vumback; I’m really excited to talk to him. If you’re a sales rep, then you know the power of referrals; well, hopefully you do. If you’re a sales leader (and I’ve been in shoes like yours), you know that referrals can really help grow your business and the impact on the bottom line with essentially free deals to you as the company. But the challenge comes in, whether you’re a rep or an organization, if you live and breathe by referrals or your goal is referrals, there’s always seems to be a challenge in a rub. And this is something I know that Jamie has been addressing with his company and that’s his whole focus. You guys know that I don’t like big intros and background stories, of course I’m going to have all of Jamie’s links in the show notes and where you can find him and everything he’s doing online with his company called GTR and what they’re up to. But for now, Jamie, welcome to The Sales Experience podcast.
Jamie: Thank you, Jason, really appreciate to have an opportunity to come on today.
Jason: Yeah, and it’s interesting because, you know, obviously there’s a lot of focus on sales and closing and personalities and… and, you know, I’ve covered things like the fundamentals and mindset, but referrals is very important, especially to any business as a couple different indicators. And what I find is interesting is that your personal and business goal is to help sales reps and companies generate referrals. And so this leads into the topic where I want to start on the referral conversation, and I have many theories, but in your opinion, your experience with the challenge that you’re trying to tackle, you know, and the conversation we’re going to have here, why do you think there is such a problem that needs a solution? Like, why do reps struggle with focusing on generating referrals?
Jamie: Yeah, and that’s the age-old question, right? And there’s really 2 stats that I take a look at and really drive my behavior when it comes to building a platform that can help overcome these 2 stats; and to me, they’re staggering. And the first one is both kind of around 90% of customers that had a positive experience are willing to send a referral and but here’s the kicker, only 11% of the salespeople ever asked for a referral. And that to me is a major, major, you know, faux pas, you know? We have so much opportunity out in the marketplace, you work so hard to get a customer happy and then you have your sales folks that are just not asking. And, you know, why is that? And I’ll go into a couple of the reasons why that is. And… and I was a salesperson myself, okay, so I know the (unclear) [02:48] of getting out there and shaking the trees and running leads and all that type of stuff. And so I used to ask for referrals, and if the customer, you know, at the point in time didn’t have anybody they wanted to recommend, you know, I kind of gave my cards and hope maybe someday they’ll tell somebody about me, right, I tried really hard to make them happy; and then it kind of goes away, right? Well, maybe a month later, that customer told a friend of theirs and they called in and they got an appointment with (guess what?) a different sales rep. And so now that sales rep did… I worked really hard to get him happy, I got a referral, and he didn’t come back to me, somebody… some other rep got the lead because the customer didn’t tell… the new customer didn’t tell him that they were referred.
And so that’s just one small reason why, you know, I think salespeople can get frustrated. And so what we try to do with our platform is to include the sales rep in the process; and I can go into a little bit about how that works. But the other stat that I think is really staggering and something that I think we need to find an answer to or why we have a solution for this is that same 90% of consumers that refer… are willing to refer after positive experience, but only 29% end up doing so. So those are the 2 big stats; 11% of sales people, only 11% of sales people ever ask for a referral and only 29% people actually do submit a referral after a positive experience. So how can we make it easier? How can we make it so that the reps are engaged, so that the sales reps understand and their return on their investment, right? It’s an investment, you know, asking for a referral, following up, maybe send them a thank-you note, maybe sending them a text, touching base at the holidays, but asking for that referral; and so there’s an investment there. So if I’m going to make an investment, I want to make sure that I’m able to get that return; and that return is those referrals coming to me. And so we built a platform that’s going to allow somebody as a sales rep to actually become part of the process. So when someone signs up to become an advocate for your company or for you as a salesperson, you’re going to get all that information, you’re going to be in control of it.
And so what happens is the nice thing about that is that the actual referral or word-of-mouth, right, it always ends up where you’re waiting for that person who was referred to get back to you. And when you have some type of formalized referral platform that you’re using, that referral, it actually closes the loop, because instead of waiting for someone to, you know, get back to you or go online and call the company or look for your card in the backseat of their car or whatever they may… case may be, you now, if you have a… you know, a formalized platform where that information is coming to you, you control that sales, you control that referral. And so that’s really important that’s what, you know, the sales reps that utilize a formalized platform really like about a formalized platform is that you are now in control of that information, now you go out and contact that person. And we all know why, you know, most people would like to work a referral versus maybe a web lead or, you know, in some cases, there is, you know, leads that are bought and such because they’re going to close at a much higher ratio. And so that’s kind of the sales rep side of it.
The customer side of it, why don’t… why is only 29% of people referring? Well, you know, they lost the business card, they forgot the… they forgot the… you know, the company name. I use a scenario that was real to me is that I got a pergola in my backyard and I really loved it and I had a bunch of people ask about it when I had a cook-out, and I’m like, “What was the name of that company that did this for me?” and I could not for the life of me remember the name of that company, I said, “Ah, just go online, you’ll find them. And so that happens a lot, so companies and sales reps, they work really, really hard in order to, you know, get customers happy. And so you want to make it super easy for that advocate or that customer to send you a referral, but not only send the referral, be able to also track it and understand what’s happening with that referral. And so using once again a formalized platforms such as get the referral or GTR, that advocate can now track that referral in real time and be able to see what’s happening with their friends and family that they refer to that company. So by… I think those are… to answer your questions, long-winded question, you know, those are really the 2 biggest items that I see is 11% of sales people ask and only 29% of people that are willing to refer end up doing so. So we want to make it easier on both sides of the story there.
Jason: Okay. So a lot of stuff, especially with those stats but it… you know, it’s all true. So let’s tackle and talk about the 11% category, you know, 11% of reps ask. You know, I think some of the challenges, and share with me, tell me your experience with this as well, both on the sales side and also in sales management then also with your current focus. But, you know, the… there’s the challenge with referrals, the hardest part about referrals is it’s like farming where you’ve got to plant seeds today for some fruit that may or may not come and you never know when, but generally, most people either want the instant gratification as the sales rep, like you want to close your deals now, or you need to eat now so all you’re focused on if you have, you know, only so much energy and time in the day, you need to focus on closing your deals today, whatever you can so you can eat today because you can’t wait for that seed that you planted to turn into an apple tree in a year and give you some apples or some tomatoes, right; and so there’s that part. And then there’s, you know, the other challenge I think happens is that sometimes sales reps, they don’t know if they’re going to be around when those referrals start generating deals, right? And so they can’t think that far in advance, they have no idea if they’re still going to be there in 6 months when somebody comes across with a referral. And, you know, so they just don’t ask, right, especially… and this is what I’ve seen is if it… if you’re a salesperson and you’re listening to this or a manager and your organization gives leads to the salesperson or drives inbound calls or has some kind of lead that you’re being given, then that’s much easier than the referral ask that follow up, the messages, the emails, the mail, you know, all that stuff that you said, and so a lot of people will default to it to just closing deals now and not asking.
Jamie: Yeah leads path to a resistance, right, you know, hey, if I know I’m going to get, you know, 20 leads this week and I’m going to close 25% of them and I know what I’m going to make at the end of the day, I’m going to run hard on those, right? And so to your point, why stop and, you know, try to get more referrals? And my answer to that is because this is an opportunity to where you can, you know, work as hard and gain more because of what referrals do for you and the close ratio. I think the average close ratio for most leads out there and then 15 to 20% range from what, you know, I find and talking to hundreds of companies across the country, whereas referrals are going to be in the, you know, the 40 to 50s and even as high as 70% close ratio because of that warm introduction. So if I’m a sales rep, you got to do the math on this, right? If I’m a sales rep and I can see 10 people in closed 7 of them, that’s the route I want to go and instead of seeing 10 people in closing 2 of them. So it’s kind of work of, you know, as hard, because I don’t want to say you have to work less because it’s a tough job out there, but you can work as hard and earn more for your efforts.
Jason: Yeah, and I think too… and this is what I’ve always trained people on and tried to explain is, you know, you’re talking about those close in percentages. So let’s say it’s 20% on a new lead that you’re closing over whatever your sales cycle is, and then for referral, let’s say it’s 25%. So, you know, one of the challenges with referrals, right, being honest about it is that just because it’s a referral, doesn’t mean it’s qualified, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a client, right, like your pergolas example.
Jason: Just because you tell your neighbors to go talk to this company to go get something like that built, doesn’t mean their yard will… it’ll fit or they can have it or its zoned for it or they have the money, right? It’s not a… it’s not necessarily a pre-qualified or qualified lead versus somebody who fills out a form after, you know, going through a question there. So the closing percentage may not be as high, but the one thing that’s pretty much universally true is that referral will be a much more pleasant conversation from the sales side because that person has already been warmed up and there’s a little bit less of the walls and the guards that are there. And so, you know, maybe you don’t close more significantly more in some industries, however it’s definitely a much more fun conversation than somebody who’s calling off of the website and just attacking you with questions, right?
Jamie: Yeah, less competition typically when you go in, you know, instead of having, you know, looking at 4 or 5 different companies to do that business, maybe there’s 1 or 2, you know? And the old icebreaker, right? Well, you don’t have to worry about looking at the fish…
Jamie: … in the wall and asking where you caught it, it’s, “Hey, let’s… your Jamie’s friend, right?”
“Oh yeah, great, hey, he told me all about you, you know, I really love that pergola and, you know, we’re looking to do something here, you know?”
Jamie: So that’s… you know, that’s where there is… there’s a lot of advantage there. And… and there are… you know, I know a lot of sales professionals out there that make their living on referrals. And, you know, what we try to do is amplify those… those opportunities for those individuals that already get it, and we also want to make it easier and have them understand that. I use the old adage… and not old adage, but the… the line from… what’s that movie with Kevin Costner there?
Jason: Field of Dreams?
Jamie: Field of Dreams, yeah, and they will come, right?
Jamie: You know, so I always tell like, we do a lot of sales trainings for folks that come on board with us and they say, “Listen, you build a network of brand advocates that believe in you and that believe in your company and believe in your product, build it and those referrals will come, there’s no doubt about it.” And, you know, what we try to do is we try to, you know, extend that relationship with a customer well beyond say like a 30 day period. What we’ve seen is, typically after 30 days, whether it’s a new car or pool, a pergola, a solar system, new windows, the excitement kind of wears off after around 30 days, right, it’s kind of gets less and less and less top of mind. And so if you have a program in place by which you can continue to stay top of mind with those… with those people that were so excited about their program that you sold them, they’re more likely to remember you and to tell you about… tell you… tell their friends about you, you know, not just 30 days out but 45 days, 2 months, 6 months later. You know what? If I get a text message from, you know, one of my sales folks, those sales people that sold me something, a new car, “Hey, I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday or I wanted to wish you, you know, happy holidays,” or whatever the case may be, that’s going to help remind them, “Wow, that was a really good experience. Imagine, that this guy took the… you know, the time to, you know, out of his day to send me a text and wish me happy birthday,” or something. So those little sentiments go a long way, and if you had a platform that can help you do that easily without having to, you know, fish through your paperwork and find cell phone numbers and such, that’s going to help you and it’s going to make it easier for you to do that.
Jason: Well, and… and I think that’s… that’s very valid is that part, and I’m just thinking from a sales representative. Obviously, you have your tech platform, which is amazing and there’ll be information on it, a lot of reps aren’t going to have that necessarily or, you know, maybe it’s something their company might put in, but they don’t have it as their own. So if you’re a sales rep listening to this, you know, obviously the key is some kind of system. I know from myself, what I’ve always put in place is something involving my CRM that I’m used for my lead management and my clients as well as calendars and then whatever nurture follow-up I can do as automatic as possible or scheduled. Like, okay, on Mondays, I send emails to these clients and here’s my list and, you know, I want to follow up and see how they’re doing if they have any questions regarding, you know, what I help them by. And, you know, so whatever it is, put some kind of system in, because here’s the fundamental… the challenge is that you get busy closing deals, you forget about the stuff in the past. And just like you were talking about, Jamie, and you, you know, top of mind and what you’re going to close today and, “What am I focusing on today?” you know, all those other tasks are going to fall away. Unless you’re thinking really long term and your focus is long term, then you’re going to split your time doing both. But for most people, honestly in this in this day and age and in the sales business, you know, it’s tough to be looking long-term, you know, unless you’re let’s say in more of an annuity based pay scale, like let’s say something like insurance where, you know… you know, it’s only after you get so many clients and then they’re renewing and then it’s growing that it’s really working for you. And so then you’re thinking long term, otherwise most sales reps aren’t. So make sure you put a system in place that will help you get the maximum value out of the… the network and the close deals. But here’s the fundamental thing (and you and I both know this too) is that none of this matters, it doesn’t matter how awesome your referral platform is unless you’re doing things the right way and also selling people in the right way and setting it up the right way.
Jamie: No doubt about that. And, you know, have being, you know, honest and, you know, upfront with customers that’s what… that’s what a referral becomes because they really appreciate honesty, they appreciate, you know, the ability to get the right information in that buying process in order for them to make a decision. Because most times, people, you know, as you know, and I think everyone else out and out there knows that people make buying decisions, not so much on the product but on the person that they’re dealing with. And so it’s really important to make sure that from that day 1 when you meet that person, no matter if they’re going to be a customer or not… and that’s the biggest thing I try to I’ve trained over the years is I don’t care if they’re going to buy or not, you need to treat them with the same exact respect and… and thank them for their time and appreciate, you know, the time that they’ve given you, whether or not they purchase from you or not. And so… because you never, never know what’s going to happen. And I will tell you I was in the solar industry for quite some time and we actually had customers that did not buy from us, had a bad experience with the other customer… with another company and ended up referring to us after that, and they called us up. And then it happened on numerous occasions where, “I really should have went with you guys, and I’ll tell you, I’m telling all my friends about you and… and just because I should have went with you,” you know? So you never know and you never want… you never want to burn a bridge, you know?
Jason: And I’ve taught sales reps this for years, and this one’s a tough one because you have to really be in the right mindset, both for the sales experience that you’re providing, you know, customer experience, as well as like long-term, like you really have…
Jason: … to be in super long term mode. But one of the things I’ve always loved doing is I’ve generally, in my sales career… and so, you know, your path, your background is solar and things like that now, yours is a business-to-business kind of interaction and, you know, in your sales process. Mine’s always been business to consumer, mostly sales, call center sales as well as like either debt relief or helping them in some kind of way, you know, financial services. And so but not everyone qualifies, I’ve never… and just probably like yourself, like never been in a business where everyone wins, right? Not everyone’s going to qualify, not everyone let’s say needs the help that’s available or qualifies or should do it. And so, you know, there’s a lot of percentage or a certain percentage of the time where it’s literally, “No, you don’t qualify.” And what I enjoy nothing more than is to ask those people for referrals and put them into my referral platform, whatever it is. Either it’s basic with a CRM and a calendar and emails or it’s sophisticated and fancy kind of like what you’ve built, but you’re doing that with leads and I’ve trained salespeople to do that for years is, “Hey, this person doesn’t qualify, tell them no, (which will blow their mind because they’re used to sales rep selling them whatever no matter what just to get paid), tell them no, they don’t qualify, and before you wish them well, make sure they have your information and generate referrals. Because they will be so excited that you told them good information and did the right thing by them and not you and your pocketbook that they will probably send you exponentially more referrals than the person who even actually bought from you.”
Jamie: No doubt, no doubt. And I’ve seen that time and time again, especially in the industry that I’m in now and in talking to so many different people. And one of the things that we go through in our process is talk about, you know, what is a brand advocate? What exactly is that? You know, what’s an ambassador? What’s a… you know, an advocate? And so, you know, we try to… try to present, it’s not just your customers, you know, it’s building a network of customers, non-customers, folks that (as you say) didn’t qualify for whatever reason, family, friends, it could be real estate agents. Depending on what you’re selling, you want to have as many people to be part of that network of, you know, word-of-mouth and referring and building that network. Once again, I go back to the Field of Dreams, building that network is the most important thing. And so like you had mentioned, you know, the seeds you saw today will, you know, produce great returns in the future, and that’s how you have to think if you. If you’re truly a sales professional, you know, and you’re not just, you know, selling for the day, you have to think that way and expand the way that you go about, you know, planting those seeds.
Jason: Yeah, and you never know which seeds are going to pop, right? There’s a certain percentage like you were talking about your stats, right, where 90% of the people said they would have done referrals, 29 actually… percent actually did. You know, there’s a certain amount of people that, no matter… as long as you weren’t offensive and they marginally liked you, like as a sales rep, if you were okay enough, there’s a certain percentage of people who will refer anyway. Like no matter what, they’re just the kind of people that like this with others whatever experience they had, hopefully positive, and they’ll just go out there and tell. There’s others that are just like on the fence and there’s others that will literally never tell anybody no matter how amazing it was. And so but you never know who that’s going to be and you got a plant enough sees. You plant 1000 seeds and, you know, 10 of them work out. And really, the key shift that I try to focus on (and hopefully if you’re listening to this, you kind of make that shift as well) is that asking for referrals or planting the seeds or putting them into your CRM or putting them into your referral advocate program that you have is literally just a matter of a few minutes, but you never know what that happens, and just get in the habit of doing that every time because it’s not a big expense upfront, but it could yield big results.
Jamie: Yeah. And it kind of goes to that 80/20 rule too, you know? I mean, that’s what we see in our business is, you know, of the folks that end up becoming an advocate for any particular company, it’s about 60% actually submit at least 1 referral, right? And then, you know, as you start looking at, you know, how many have submitted 2 to 3 over a 12-month period you’re, you know, about 30% and… but when you… you know, you’re going to have then 10 to 20% that are really big active referers for you. And, you know, obviously, you want that 1 referral, you want that 2 or 3 referrals, but those folks that are going to be, you know, referring multiple times are the ones you really want to pay attention to. And I had a… I had a gentleman in my office this morning helping out with some marketing tools for us, and he was telling me that he’s got, you know, 5 to 10 people that he… they, no matter what, they’re sending him, you know, 2 to 3 referrals every single month.
Jamie: And, you know, so you just have to really take the opportunity to build it while… I keep going back to that, “Build it and they will come,” but, you know, understand…
Jason: It’s true.
Jamie: … that there’s powerful, powerful tool at your fingertips and also take some times just to ask, right? And I don’t care, like you said earlier, use a spreadsheet, you know, use the old… you know, buy a bunch of, you know, cards and… and just, you know, the old handwritten thank-you note.
Jamie: You know, that is… that goes such a long way. And I’ve seen that there’s different tools out there that will do it, you know, kind of electronically for you.
Jamie: But if you can… if you can take, you know, at the end of the week, you saw 20 people, write thank-you in a card and drop it in the mail, that is going to go a long way for you. So that is just something that if you don’t have a formalized platform, then, you know, do little things like that and it’s going to pay big dividends for you.
Jason: Well, and you and I had talked on previous conversations, you know, there’s a guy, Brian Buffini, who’s really big in real estate and mortgage referrals and he’s just like about doing all business by referral and that’s where he want to get to. And he says that too is to write handwritten notes and, you know, just make it simple. At the beginning of each day, grab 5 note cards and do 5 a day so it doesn’t become too overwhelming. And send them to whoever, partners, vendors, clients, you know, prospects if, you know, that makes sense for sending out notes or send emails, send… send whatever you can, do it in little bites, you know, set up a system where you have that list always available and you’re just churning through that when you have your spare time. Like, if you are in sales and you generally receive inbound calls or inbound leads, there’s always going to be some downtime, and during that downtime is when you should be planting seeds and then watering those seeds for those to grow so that you’re not having to go out there and hunt and, you know, run around and hopefully find something out there to hunt, which is a gamble, right, because some days, you run around you’re not going to find anything, and other days, you know, you might be successful. But the more you can generate referrals and just live off the referrals, it’s also a testament to how well you’re doing. What I’ve seen a lot (and I’m sure you’ve seen this as well) is that sales reps who do not generate any referrals, typically that’s a sign, not just of them not asking because, again, certain number of people will always generate… or always send you referrals, it is more of the kind of service they’re providing and sales experience that their clients are having and how they feel about that sales rep when they’re done, and usually that’s not a good indication.
Jamie: Yeah, no doubt there. And, you know, think about, you know, we’ve all had positive sales experience and negative sales experiences. And, you know, of course the negative ones are going to… they’re going to, you know, stick with you for a lot longer, and that’s unfortunate. So you want to do your best as a salesperson sales manager to just to ensure that that customer feels comfortable and they feel like they were done right by you and your company, whether they buy or not.
Jason: Yeah. And fundamentally and, you know, maybe it’s a good place to wrap up this conversation on referrals, but your ultimate goal as a salesperson should be the referral. Like Jamie said, like you said earlier, I mean, you know, if you can just operate just completely on referrals as your sole source of leads, then you’re more in control and you can… you have that flow that’s happening, and it’s easier and they convert higher most of the time. And you’re just going to be more successful without the same stress of, “Oh my gosh, it’s a new day, it’s a new week, what am I… what am I got? What leads? What am I doing?” you know, instead of showing up on that Monday morning of a new month and, you know, you’ve got your voicemail full, your email box inbox has some referrals, people want to talk to you. And then you’re more just servicing people in a professional way than, you know, trying to persuade new people.
Jason: Cool. Well, Jamie, I appreciate your time on here; so fun. I know this is… it’s a weird topic that I’m excited about, like when you and I set this up, I’m like, “Oh, it’s going to be so exciting,” I’m so excited for a whole week of talking about referrals. And, you know, because most sales organizations, that’s not a huge topic, they just would rather throw more money at new leads while at the same time owner… owners of companies that finance… the, you know, the CFO and everyone involved would like to be operating more in referrals but, you know, that’s a long term kind of almost like an SEO strategy where, you know, it’s easier to just throw some money at it. So I enjoyed this and I’m excited to talk about referrals, and I know you are as well.
Jamie: Yeah, no, I really appreciate it. And, you know, my last note is, I was actually on a panel this past week at a trade show and we were talking the difference between, you know, buying leads and referrals. And, you know, my whole, you know, thought process behind that is, as a company, from that standpoint, get control of your cost-per-acquisition. Understand what that is and you’re going to make sure that your… all your reps are asking every single… every single time that they have, because with referrals, it’s going to drive down your cost for acquisition. And that’s ultimately, you know, from a company standpoint, being able to control that and understand that number and be able to reduce it, it is a key, key component to a very healthy business. So…
Jamie: But I really appreciate… appreciate you inviting on. I’m sure I’ll be able to come back, I hope, along the way, so in the future.
Jason: Yeah. Well, we’ll definitely have these conversations more, for sure. And…
Jason: …. I appreciate it. And for everyone listening, the transcript will be in the show notes, all those… Jamie’s links will be there, where you can find him, his platform, check it out. Obviously, you know, look him up, and then if you have referrals for people that could use his kind of services (since we’re talking about referrals), that would be appreciated as well. And make sure to subscribe, rate this wherever you’re listening to your podcast and downloading them, leave comments if that’s available, anything like that helps. You know, obviously one of this conversation, and I say this a bunch, but I truly mean it is my goal, just like Jamie’s goal, is to change the landscape of sales and turn it into more of a positive thing, that generating referrals versus, you know, the old way that it’s done, which is, you know, kind of turn and burn on clients. And so please, I’m doing my referral last now, please make sure to share this with anybody you know in sales, sales reps, somebody who’s thinking about getting in sales, your sales manager, sales leader, anybody you know in those roles so that we can get this spread around and help change the landscape for sales in general. But until next time, always remember that everything in life is sales and people, remember the experience you gave them.