When it comes to sales prospecting techniques, no technique is more coveted than referrals.

Referrals are far easier prospects than cold calling. Most research shows that about 60% of all referrals turn into sales. This, however, does not mean that there is less work to do.

The very first – and sometimes, most difficult – thing to do is to ask for those referrals. Salespeople often forget or have a hard time asking a prospect or client for a referral - something that, when taking the closing ration of near 60% into consideration - makes very little sense.

Never assume that asking for a referral is inappropriate. Most clients do not mind but won’t offer them either. But always ask.

It's one of the most underused of all of the effective sales prospecting techniques that we cover here and in in the recently released second edition of FEAR Selling: How You Can Sell More and Sell Faster By Tapping Into Your Prospects' Deep-Seated Emotional Needs. Referrals must be treated with even more respect and courtesy than your cold calling contacts. They are friends or business partners of your clients, and their reputation as well as yours is on the line.

Referrals are also people who are more likely to be interested in hearing what you have to say than just any old cold-calling prospect. The fact that they are willing to give you more of their time than others is reason enough to treat them with respect.

More on this aspect of referrals and related sales prospecting techniques are covered in upcoming issues of The FREE FEAR Selling Newsletter.
Your clients are the most obvious people to give you referrals. They are part of businesses that benefit the most from your product and services and most likely to know people in other businesses with the same needs.

Other people that can provide referrals are family members and friends. Ask them if they know someone that will benefit from your product or service. Chances are someone knows one or two people that meet your criteria.

As we cover in other sections of Sales Prospecting Techniques, try networking in every possible social situation - while going to your kids’ baseball or soccer games, at a civic group meeting or even at church.

Ask your old prospects for referrals as well. If you pitch a product to someone but didn’t make a sale, contact this former prospect. Congratulate him for finally making a decision (despite the fact that they didn’t choose you). Ask for feedback and also ask for contacts of potential prospects. If this is not possible, offer to send your business card so that they can pass it along to referrals.

Once someone is willing to give you contact names make sure that you follow some basic rules like:

1) Give them pointers as to the types of prospects you are targeting. People know hundreds of other people. Don’t expect them to remember who would be more suitable for you. Instead, give them some direction; ask them if they know anyone who would meet one or two requirements.

2) Make sure you write the referral name and contact information immediately in order to avoid spelling and other errors. Get as much contact information as possible (i.e. address, phones, fax, emails, etc.)

3) Write a note to yourself that will explain who your referral is, who referred them to you and how can you help them.

4) Ask permission to use your client’s name when contacting the referrals. Try not to use someone’s name without permission.

For more on how to tap into the power of Referrals, check out the advanced sales prospecting techniques in FEAR Selling.