I was at a conference in sunny La Jolla, CA last week presenting to a group of very successful business owners in the security industry. Most have owned their companies for decades and have already built thriving recurring revenue businesses. Still, every single one of them has a keen interest in sales expansion. Each of them wants to better understand how to keep moving their sales teams forward on the path to increased selling efficiency.
A conversation was had about whether their sales reps need to understand the ins and outs of social media, and how to use services like LinkedIn for producing sales. There are lots of factors at play here. The owners themselves don’t necessarily have an appreciation for the power of tools like LinkedIn or Reachable, and may even prefer to stay incognito, so they are uncertain about whether or not their salespeople should spend time using them.
Social isn’t necessarily better than old fashioned methods for referrals.
The bottom line is that, if used properly, tools like LinkedIn can be very powerful in acquiring introductions and referrals to targeted decision makers. However, the old-fashioned way of asking clients and contacts for introductions works great too.
The truth is that introductions and referrals provide the greatest return on the time invested in prospecting, wherever they happen. I am an advocate of using LinkedIn and Reachable to make the process of getting first appointments more efficient ─ and you should encourage your sales reps to do this, too ─ but the process is the same whether one uses social media tools or not.
Referral gathering is mostly the same, in any venue.
Most sales managers suffer from failure to consistently hold their team members accountable to a certain level of referral-gathering activity. If you have read many of my articles then you know that I am a hawk about accountability to activities and behaviors. If you can get your salespeople doing enough of the right things each and every day, then they have a fighting chance of being successful. At that point, if they aren’t, it is likely because they need to improve their sales and communication skills.
Instead of worrying about whether to use social, worry about your activity sheet.
Unfortunately, too many managers only focus on the outcome. Each month, they focus on the sales that were closed ─ which has no bearing on what will happen in the future. Or they place too much emphasis on the pipeline, and then the pipeline grows fluffy with no more closed business.
Managers must help salespeople focus on the daily activities that will produce first appointments. The most productive of those activities is seeking referrals and introductions from clients and from those who are advocates of your services and can influence others. LinkedIn and Reachable just happen to have platforms that can make the process more efficient than calling and asking for referrals. The principles are the same whether you are asking face-to-face or via a platform such as LinkedIn.
Here are some referral gathering tips to share with your sales team:
1. Always have a target list of prospective companies.
It is easy to ask everyone you meet if they have a contact at that company, and further, by using LinkedIn you can search that company and discover who you know that can introduce you to people at the company. If you sign up for Reachable, it will automatically sort all of your paths to the company and rank the strength of those connections. It’s LinkedIn on steroids.
2. Have an easy-to-recite, very short string of words about what you do available for the referring party.
This will help trigger their emotions and internalize your services, allowing them to make a more effective referral on your behalf. Examples are: “we took away the hassle…” or “I eliminated their frustration…”
3. Treat a referral interaction just like a cold call.
In other words, don’t assume that because the person was referred that they have a need for your services. In fact, you should say “Do you know why Bob referred you to me?” Then you can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth rather than projecting what you think onto the prospect.
4. Use sun-setting relationships as an opportunity for new business.
When a piece of business is lost, be sure to ask, “I know that we aren’t right for you, but can you think of another company that might benefit from what we do?” It is an easy way to make lemonade from lemons.
5. Track sales activities.
The most important component is really just maintaining accountability to the activity of gathering referrals. Each salesperson should have done their math of success calculation identifying how many first appointments they need each day, week or month to produce adequate closed sales to meet their goals. They should also have an activity plan for how they intend to get those appointments. Be sure they include some activity around seeking referrals and introductions . . . and, by all means, do not discount the ease and effectiveness of using LinkedIn and Reachable to get the job done.
These tips should help you gain valuable referrals, whether on social media or the old fashioned way.
As a manager or business leader, if you want to measurably influence your sales team’s effectiveness, just getting them to focus on seeking a certain number of referrals each month can have a dramatic impact on their success. What referral gathering techniques have worked for you? Leave a comment to let us know.
Get a head start on meeting your referral goals by downloading our Sales Accountability Worksheet to track your activities.
So…do your reps need to understand social media and use LinkedIn for sales?
Getting referrals effectively may be more important than venue . . . but, should your sales team be leveraging social for sales? Yes, if they are serious about getting referrals. If you need additional help with the technical aspects of using social effectively, I recommend following Celina Guerrero of Social to Sales. She blogs specifically about how to use LinkedIn for sales.
You may also be interested in:
*Disclaimer on brand mentions. LinkedIn and Reachable were mentioned several times in this post, and Braveheart Sales Performance would like to make clear that these were not a result of any reward, incentive, promotion or other compensation on the part of those companies. We mention them strictly of our own initiative because we have used them and found them helpful.