Originally published on Entrepreneur.com on October 22, 2014
Referrals are the heart of new business for most salespeople, providing personal connections to otherwise cold prospects. Skilled salespeople know the critical role that referrals can play in sealing a deal and do everything possible to nurture and grow their referral networks.
It’s no surprise that social-networking sites have made the task of seeking referral seeking easier and more prevalent, providing people multiple ways to ask for introductions to prospective clients. Yet with such an deluge of people asking for and making referrals on a regular basis, salespeople are faced with a new kind of problem: referral fatigue.
When salespeople ask for too many referrals, from close relationships and more distant connections, this can overburden their contacts. This also results when salespeople make too many referrals, thereby watering down the strength of their endorsements. To stave this off, beat referral fatigue in sales in these three ways:
1. Be wary of online networks.
With so many social-networking sites available, it can be tempting to sign up for a remotely relevant site for the chance of making new professional connections.
But more doesn’t mean better in this case. Spreading yourself thin across multiple social-networking sites to make a connection with an old high school friend who knows someone who knows someone at a prospective client firm might not be the best use of of your time.
2. Figure out the best connections.
All referrals are not created equal. While sites like Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy to find people you know who have connections to those you want to know, the strength or quality of their connection is not always clear. Sites like LinkedIn can give the wrong impression: It might appear that someone you know has a relationship with a certain person, when in fact the two haven’t even met.
Without more specific knowledge, it’s difficult to figure out which introductions might result in meaningful contacts. Determining the most relevant and important relationships in the social-networking web can make or break a sales referral.
Related: Why You’re Thinking About Networking All Wrong
3. Make the right ask.
When it comes time to ask for a referral, be sure to ask the right person in the right way. The right person may very well be on one of your social-networking go-to sites or could be sitting right next to you at work. Take the time to engage in a meaningful exchange to determine if this person can accomplish what you desire.
Think about how you want to ask for a referral. Does this person respond better face-to-face, on the phone or via email? What recent events or details from this person’s life can you weave into the ask? Coming up with a well thought-out approach will show your target that instead of sending a request to everyone in your network, you took the time to personalize your outreach.
There’s no denying that the referral game remains at the core of sales success. Whether it’s surfing social-networking sites, attending networking events or talking to colleagues and peers, salespeople have numerous touch points for building their referral networks.
Asking too many people too many times will lead to referral fatigue. Making too many referrals will yield the same result. Finding relevant people through appropriate channels and making just the right ask can re-energize salespeople on their referral quest, taking the fatigue out of the equation.