Active Referral Networks

Active Referral Networks and Cold Calling

By:  Carrie Richardson, Partner, Richardson & Richardson

An active referral network leads to predictable sales growth, while a passive referral network creates a feast and famine sales pipeline.

To build an active referral network, you’ll need to start looking for opportunities for the people in your network that you’re relying on for referrals.  Reciprocity is far more valuable to a business owner than an Amazon gift card.   The more opportunities you can find for potential customers, the more likely they are to eventually become your customers!

You can incorporate your active referral networks into your cold calling activities to produce significantly better connection rates with decision makers.

Carrie Richardson has been promoting active referrals and cold calling since 2016.  Check out her article “How To Build An Active Referral Network” published in SmarterMSP.

Carrie describes the differences between closing cold call first sales appointments and referral first sales appointments in “Closing Cold Appointments” on the Tiger Paw blog.

A typical cold calling script opening statement:

“It’s Carrie calling from ABC IT in Denver.  We provide IT support for (type of companies) and I’d like to find out what process we would follow to be considered as a potential vendor for your firm.  Who do you think I should speak to first?”

This is a great cold opener.  It’s wide:  you’re not asking for a specific person, a specific title or even asking them if they’d like a new provider.  You’re acknowledging that it’s probably not the sales call that’s going to win you the business – you’re telling them that you understand it’s not a snap decision, and that you’ll need to earn the opportunity.  It’s open-ended, and it asks the person you’re speaking with for help, instead of demanding that they summon someone to the phone.

An active referral network script opening statement:

“It’s Carrie calling from ABC IT in Denver.  Our typical clients are (describe) but often they don’t need IT support immediately.  I spoke to a (type of company) owner yesterday who didn’t need IT support but who is looking for (what they do).  When would be a good time to reach (name of business owner or CEO) so I can pass over some details on that lead?”

Either of these cold opens will probably get you to the voicemail box of the decision maker, but which message do you think gets returned first?  The “how do we become your IT vendor?” message or the “I have a prospect for you” message?

Starting a Relationship By Creating A Value Deficit

Giving is better than taking.  The person who always eats more than their fair share of the cookies in the company break room is a jerk.  The person who brings the cookies into the office is a hero.  Think about prospecting the same way.  You want to make an impact on the prospect, and the prospect likely got another dozen sales calls today.  You didn’t ask for anything, you just showed up with an opportunity for them.  Follow up with:

“here are the kinds of clients WE look for – if you have anyone in your network that fits that description and needs great IT support, I hope you’ll keep us in mind.” 

Reciprocity Doesn’t Mean Exclusivity

You’re not limited to sharing one lead with one company.  If you find a great opportunity, you can share it with multiple prospects.

Follow Up and Follow Through

The most challenging part of building an active referral network is the same thing that is challenging about building a sales pipeline – following up on a regular cadence, keeping your notes in your CRM accurate, and continually checking in with the people you are engaging with.

Questions You Can Use To Identify Potential Leads for Prospects:

Your first priority is to find out if the person at the networking event (or on the phone, or on the zoom call) is interested in your own services.  Then, you’ll begin digging to see if you can find opportunities for other people in your network.

  1. What type of audience or customer does your business cater to?
  2. How do you solve the problems or challenges faced by your customers?
  3. What type of services or products do you offer that can add value to other businesses or individuals?
  4. What sets you apart from other businesses offering similar products or services?
  5. What type of feedback or reviews have you received from your customers?
  6. What types of businesses or industries would you like to collaborate with in the future?
  7. How have you evolved or changed your business offerings to keep up with the changing market trends?
  8. How do you measure the success of your business?
  9. What type of marketing strategies or tactics do you use to reach out to potential customers?
  10. What is your business’s long-term vision, and how do you plan to achieve it?
  11. How do you build strong relationships with your customers?
  12. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced while running your business?
  13. What is your company culture like, and how does it align with your business goals?
  14. How do you create and maintain a positive brand image for your business?
  15. What type of resources or tools do you use to streamline your business operations?
  16. How do you stay up to date with the latest industry news and updates?
  17. What are some of the most successful projects or initiatives your business has undertaken in the past?
  18. What type of support or services do you require to take your business to the next level?
  19. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance while running your business?
  20. What motivates you when you’re having a challenging day?

Focus on Building a Repeatable Process

Like anything in your business, a referral network runs best when you develop a process that you adhere to, perfect, and then ideally, roll out a companywide initiative.  Imagine if everyone on your team was always looking for new opportunities for your clients, prospects and connections?  How many effective interactions would that lead to?

If you’re interested in learning how to build this process – or you’re struggling with building any process in your business, Richardson & Richardson can help.

Learn more about building your business using referrals here:

Download our white paper on the process.

Interested in learning how to ask your current clients for referrals?  Richardson & Richardson has an on-demand course that covers all the basics.  Looking for a little more help?  We offer consulting and process development to businesses who are looking to build, train and manage an active referral network for their sales team.   Our first online course on active referral networks is coming soon – talk to us if you’d like early access!

Book a complimentary consult here.

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