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Are You Being Referred to Decision Makers?

How successful are you at having your contacts make effective introductions to the right decision makers (being referred)? If you’re not having as much success as you’d like, you’re not alone. Here’s a question I ran across on LinkedIn.

Has anyone had success in a referral program getting end-users to refer me to the buyer in their organization? 

For instance, you go to Dreamforce and you get the name of a Sales manager, but the CFO is the buyer. How do you get the Sales manager to refer you to the CFO? Or say you have the name of someone who used to be an end-user, but has changed jobs. How do you get them to refer your solution to the buyer?

There isn’t a special referral approach for this circumstance. Having people refer you up to their boss still requires a level of trust and confidence to make this referral worthwhile. So that we’re on the same page, let’s define referrals as an introduction to someone that wants to meet you for your intended purpose. It’s not a name and phone number for you to cold call and it is not your name or card being dropped on someone’s desk. A referral is a hot call because the party knows you are calling and wants to take your call.

To make this referral happen the person referring you “up” needs to:

  • Trust you and your product/service.
  • Understand how to communicate a result or value statement that’s relevant, current and meaningful to the person they are referring you to (you need to help them here in most cases).

If you’re in this circumstance or wanting to be introduced up the ladder, think about following these steps before asking for a quick introduction or name.

  1. Confirm your contact believes in you and your product or service. If not, you need to invest time getting them to this place. You can’t skip this step because if they refer you out of courtesy but do not truly believe in you, they will be shot down or you will be eternally following up with Hopeium.
  2. Learn about the person you want to be referred to and any company initiatives that are current priorities. Find out what specific initiatives that the decision maker has on their plate. Do the homework.
  3. Come up with a way to explain to your contact the value or result of utilizing your service that they can share with the decision maker. This value should be tied to the decision makers personal or company initiative.


The personal initiative is “reducing service turnaround time. “ Your challenge is to come up with a statement that will tie your value to this initiative. Let’s say you sell web conference service. Your contact might say this….

“Joe, I trust a rep with xyz company that says she can demonstrate how their service can help us reduce our service turn-around. Do you want to meet with her?”

You can’t control the decision maker’s response but you can put your best request forward by building trust with your contact, learning what’s important to the decision maker and tying it back to your solution.

As an additional resource, I wholeheartedly believe in and support the referral program of Joanne Black at If you want to improve your referral results at a minimum you should order her book.

Rene is the President of Sales Manager Now, a company that provides fractional sales management services to small and family-run businesses. He has twenty-seven years of experience in sales leadership, coaching, and consulting. He is also the author of the Part-Time Sales Management handbook and is based in Auburn, California.

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