How To Build A Referral Engine with These 6 Quick Tips

Editor’s Note: Recap post of the deck Emmanuelle Skala, VP of Sales at Influitive presented at the Sales Hacker Conference, New York City 2015. Scroll down to view her deck from the conference.

A culture of customer success and satisfaction by delighting your customer in all phases of the customer experience lifecycle is a MUST. To build a referral engine, you first need an amazing data engine and a few core tactics that make it easier.

Why Invest in a Referral Channel?

Referrals are Your Most Important Leads

  • 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral
  • Referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value
  • Referral leads convert 30% better than leads generated from other marketing channels
  • Peer recommendations make buyers 5X happier with B2B purchases

6 Hacks for Getting Referrals

Pretend that you are Matt in the following scenario. This is how you’re going to get more referrals in your sales pipeline:

Matt works for Analyze This.

Analyze This has ~50 customers.

(Joe, Susan, Diana, Billy, Jason…)

Matt would love to sell to ACME and Dunder.

Matt is also planning a trip to Chicago soon.

Direct Asks

1. Use Connections

Search your prospects’ LinkedIn profiles for customers they are connected to
. You could ask for an direct introduction, (Sally meet Matt, Matt meet Sally) but you don’t really even need to be in the middle. Ask Joe to send an email to Sally saying…. “Hey, I’ve been using Analyze This and you should take a look…”

Sally is a prospect who works at ACME.

Sally is connected to Joe, a customer, who works at Mifflin.

ASK JOE TO REFER SALLY (note, you don’t need to be in the middle).

2. Use History

Match up the prior companies your advocates have worked for with the companies you are prospecting into
. You could also use history of the prospect themselves (versus history of the customer as in this example) such as PROSPECT used to work at ACME (which is a current customer).

Again, you can ask for an introduction (to a specific person is even better versus “someone in finance”) or you can just ask Jason to recommend someone at Dunder.

Jason, a customer, used to work at Dunder.

Matt is trying to get introduced to someone in finance at Dunder.


3. Use Geography

Use geography to set up meetings. For example, “Do you know anyone in Chicago?”

Again, the more specific, the better. But this is an opportunity to find prospects that might not be on your target list already. The introductions can be direct introductions or suggestion to look at your product.

Matt is planning a trip to Chicago.

Joe, Diana, and Susan are all customers in Chicago


Indirect Connects

Indirect Connects encourage referrals but aren’t directly asking for referrals.

1. Be a Matchmaker

The idea here is that you encourage people who have something in common to connect with the hopes that your company will come up in the conversation. But more importantly, it shows you care about your prospect and want to help them grow their network or get educated.

Sally is a prospect who works at ACME.

Sally is connected to Joe, a customer who works at Mifflin.

They are both financial analysts in retail.


2. Share Connected Content

Share tweets, comments, and reviews your customers have done with your prospects that they’re connected to (versus just a random case study they don’t relate to).

Sure, you can share your best case studies and product reviews, but if you want to be SUPER smart about it show them something that was WRITTEN BY SOMEONE THEY KNOW!

Hopefully they will reach out to that person and get more info!

Larry is a prospect who works at Dunder.

Diana, customer at Riggit is connected to Larry.

Larry commented in a community about your product.


3. Relevant and Happy Logos

Create a logo slide of happy customers:

Happy Customers

Ask prospects to identify who they know at these companies and to GIVE THEM A CALL!

As B2B salespeople we already know to reference the most relevant customers when prospecting, but generally we still just use the same old “best customers” instead. Additionally, we typically don’t give our prospects a strong CTA of what they’re supposed to do with this list of customers.

For instance, say something like: “I encourage you to reach out to anyone in your network that is at one of these companies and ask them about their experience with us.”

Tip: Make sure the list of customers you’re putting in front of the prospect is relevant (same industry, same geography, same size, same investor, prior companies)!

Lisa is a prospect who works at ACME and used to work at HP and IBM.

ACME is a Marketing Automation company in Boston.


Final Tip: Don’t Limit Yourself

Of course happy customers make the best referrals – but don’t limit yourself. You can also ask prospects or other influencers for referrals too!

For example: Had a great demo? Got a champion but no closed deals yet? Have an investor or partner or just a “friend of your company”? Maybe you even got a NO….  Look at who they are connected to (look for keywords or past companies) and ask them for referrals!

A Few Keys to Success

Don’t under-estimate what power YOU have as a sales person in the customer experience. People ultimately buy from YOU.

  • Ask everyone. Ask now. Ask often.
  • Make providing referrals EASY.
  • Close the loop.


Emmanuelle is a SaaS sales veteran who has run sales teams at DigitalOcean, Influitive, VMTurbo, and Sophos. She regularly advises small companies and serves on the advisory board of 4 start-ups. Emmanuelle lives outside of Boston with her husband and 3 girls.

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