Why do so many salespeople fail to generate referrals?
In the last episode I covered the simple, three step formula for building your referral pipeline.
Seems easy enough, why wouldn’t everyone be doing that?
Well, the challenge is that referrals require patience.
Planting referral seeds will take time to produce fruit.
Most salespeople need to eat today. They don’t have time to wait six months for a referral.
In this episode I go into more depth on the topic of patience, selling, and balancing hunting with farming.
Episode 23 – Transcript
Welcome to the third episode of Referrals Week here on The Sales Experience Podcast. My name is Jason Cutter and I hope you are enjoying this podcast and the theme of this week. And I am not just saying that to try and get your referrals. I honestly mean it. There a billion different podcast, and a million of them are sales or business related. The fact that you downloaded this and are listening means something very special to me.
Alright, now for why you are here. To hear about what you need to do to pivot your sales conversations and processes in order to generate more referrals with the ultimate vision of having a 100% referral based sales career. Will that ever happen? That is up to you to decide. Will it happen quickly? Nope.
Using the referral formula I covered in the last episode correctly, as many times per day, week, or month as possible, will generate referrals. But no idea when or how many. That is the downside to a referral based sales practice. And it part of why so many salespeople don’t give the referral formula their full time and effort. It can be hard work. And it takes time. And the fruit doesn’t come right away. It’s like farming.
Farming is a great option for generating food to eat. You go out into your field, or garden, and pick some ripe fruit or vegetables or nuts or whatever and boom – time to eat. This is way better than hunting. Hunting involves running around looking for something to go after, and then you actually have to catch it. You might not finding anything, even after hours of hunting. And even you do find something there is no guarantee you will get it. I can spend hours and hours fishing, but doesn’t mean I will go home with any fish. Farming is way better. Just pick and eat!
But we both know that that’s not how farming works. Its not a magical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory garden full of never ending, always available treats. In order to harvest food today from your garden or land, you have to have planted seeds months and months ago. Then you need to nurture, water, and protect the little seed from the elements and predators. As it grows it can take even more work. And after all that, maybe…hopefully there will be something to harvest and eat. And some plants can take years before you get anything from them. Plant some apple seeds today and you ain’t eating apples for a long time. So farming is about patience, but when it works it is great.
With salespeople there is this balance. An ever present battle going on inside. There is a need to eat today. Planting seeds that you can harvest in 6 months wont do you any good if you die of starvation before then or end up homeless. So you got to eat today. That is the hunting mode. That’s why most salespeople are referred to as hunters – especially the ones who cold call or knock on doors. They are out roaming the plains looking for their next meal. This is great, because a person has to eat. Close that deal today, get your commission, or bonus, or get one deal closer to meeting your quota and keeping your job, and you are set for now.
The challenge comes in that most salespeople, like our early ancestors, don’t look out far enough ahead and see the value of hunting for today AND planting seeds that they could potentially harvest later one. They need to eat now. And then tomorrow all they can think about is eating tomorrow as well. Not where they will be in six months. Now how the effort would be worth it to follow the referral formula now so that in six months, or twelve months, or eighteen months, they could be sitting back on their porch eating off the land.
I am not saying that most salespeople are wrong or at fault. But I am saying that most want or need instant gratification, which comes from being in hunting mode and do not look out at their sales career as a long term endeavor. And unfortunately it is a perpetual cycle. You don’t put in the effort to follow the referral formula, which includes asking for referrals. You don’t get referrals so you have to rely on deals you close in the moment. Because you don’t see the fruit growing on the trees, you don’t plant referral seeds. Three months go by without referrals, and no seeds planted. So no fruit is coming. And so it goes. And your sales career is spent living in a state of here and now, constantly worried about where your next meal is coming from, instead of knowing that at some point the food will be right there waiting for you.
Asking for referrals isn’t hard. In fact, that part of the referral formula literally takes a few minutes. The follow up isn’t hard either, if that is allowed by your company. To make a follow up call a month after the customer buys from you, or send an email, or send a text – only takes a few minutes. Its not hard. But it is also rarely done by salespeople. Why? Because they are too busy trying to close deals today but aren’t thinking about what their sales career would be like with referrals coming in. Again, please understand there is nothing wrong with constantly being in hunting mode. It just means that unless you are an amazing hunter, there will be days you wont eat. You will have great pay periods and lean pay periods. “Winter” will hit every sales rep where it is tough to close any deals.
Now, another reason that salespeople don’t go after referrals, and do not ask for them? Because they don’t fully believe in what they are selling. Either they don’t think it is as great as it could or should be. Or it doesn’t really help the customer out. Or the extreme end, is that the salesperson knows it’s a scam. Tough to ask someone to send you their friends and family when you aren’t even sure they should have bought.
If you find yourself holding back from asking for referrals because of your feelings about the company, the product or service, or how well the fulfillment end of things actually works – then either do more research to prove to yourself that what you sell is in fact beneficial, helpful, or a good thing for people. Or run from your current company and find something else to sell that you can believe in. If you don’t feel confident enough to ask for referrals I can guarantee that your career there will also be short lived. Your prospects will feel your hesitation and you will struggle to be successful long term.
If that doesn’t apply to you, and you can see down the road far enough to understand the value of planting referral seeds, watering and nurturing them with follow ups and love, and being patient enough to have faith that you won’t know when it will produce fruit – then follow the referral formula on as many interactions as you can each day.
I know these episodes are little longer, but there is so much I want to cover on referrals that I am packing in as much as I can to each show. This should indicate to you how important I truly believe referrals are and what it can reveal about you – the sales professional.
That’s it for this episode. Make sure to subscribe, rate, comment, and share these. But until next time, always remember that everything in life is sales and people will remember the experience you gave them.