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For B2B sellers, the best pipeline accelerator is often hidden right in plain sight. According to a LinkedIn study, 76% of buyers prefer to work with a vendor that comes recommended by a trusted peer or colleague. That’s great news for reps who’d rather allocate their cold-calling time to higher-value tasks.

However, even when you’ve spent months or even years building up goodwill with a client or prospect and working to find the best possible solution for their needs, asking your contacts for referrals can still be a delicate
matter.

Here’s how to master the art of the ask and win peer referrals.

Create a rewarding customer experience

It seems simple, but peer referrals don’t have a leg to stand on if your customer experiences aren’t excellent from start to finish. Effective peer recommendations come from not just high-quality products, but the overall ease of doing business with you and your entire organization. Throughout the sales process, make sure that your customers are happy and feel heard and supported.

When you’re at the point that you’d like to ask for a personalized referral into contacts in their network, map out the story you’d like to tell. Outline some of the key points you’d like them to emphasize in their referral, from your ease of customer service to specific product features. Reduce the amount of work your client has to do to create and send a strong referral to a peer.

Don’t be afraid to ask earlier in the process

Building customer trust takes time, but if your lead process flows smoothly, there’s no reason to wait until the close of a sale or years of service to ask for a referral. The demo stage is an excellent early-stage point to inquire if other contacts or departments in the lead’s organization might have needs that you can address.

Even if a product demo or discovery call doesn’t lead to a qualified opportunity, asking if they’ve had a good experience with your sales process and see value in your products can be a lead-up to asking for a referral.

Maintain referral follow-up across multiple channels

Even if referrals don’t have an initial need for your products or services, it’s important to maintain consistent touchpoints. Continue to invite referred clients and leads to trade events and workshops you or your company host, and consider sending a personalized email when your marketing team publishes content that may be relevant for their organization. Demonstrate the excellent customer service they’d receive if they were to become your customer.

Traditional email and phone outreach can be supplemented by maintaining an active online profile on social media sites like LinkedIn. You can also use social media to see when potential prospects or previous customers may be in a position to recommend or use your products and services in a new and relevant context, such as when jobs or projects change. Reaching out during and after key career moves helps develop more personalized, long-term relationships.

Referral incentives

Incentives for direct peer referrals or postings to product review sites come in many forms, including full-on gamification with gift-card prizes and product discounts. These marketing-driven programs can be supplemented with quarterly challenges for your sales team to ensure the strongest advocates are participating–and that your sales team is incentivized to gather referral business into their pipeline.

Improving the sales experience ensures sales reps are motivated to excel, which in turn improves the customer experience. Find out more here.

Author Bio

Shawn Willett

Shawn Willett is Senior Director, Marketing Programs at SAP Sales Cloud, part of the SAP Customer Experience unit of SAP. With over 20 years of experience in enterprise software roles, he is responsible for articulating the unique benefits that SAP Sales Cloud's suite of sales effectiveness applications can provide to modern sales organizations.

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