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Does Referral Selling Work?

On LinkedIn a business owner asked, “Is business growth through referrals possible?” He further explained, “In B2B, is it possible to actively, positively encourage client referrals?” He continued, “I’m not talking about just doing a good job and waiting for our client to sing our praises – No – this is a question about whether it is possible to “push” our clients to refer (referral selling). Is it doable, and how???”

I jumped all over that question. I love it when someone’s looking for a better way to generate business and I had the answer. Yes, it is doable, and you can use the referral system laid out by Joanne Black in her book No More Cold Calling.  After seeing Joanne speak and reading her book, I was sold.  She’s been carrying the flag of ONLY referral selling for over ten years, and I have jumped on board. I must admit that I’ve resisted the book for many years; after all, I’ve made a nice living using my cold calling skills. I used to think, “Who is she to say no more cold calling?” I was resisting because I didn’t want to change. You know, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. A horse drawn carriage still works as transportation, but it doesn’t mean we should keep using them

Just as the horse and carriage doesn’t make sense in today’s world, having quality sales reps cold calling doesn’t either. Even writing that feels weird after cold calling and teaching others for so long. The following business reasoning behind referral selling is too compelling to ignore:

  • Reduced marketing costs from traditional direct cold marketing approaches.
  • Shortening of the sales cycle, as referred prospects already trust you.
  • Improved profitability as you focus referrals on preferred or ideal clients/customers
  • Service-minded sales people representing the company and building trust. Referral selling doesn’t work any other way.
  • Internal cross selling increases as part of the system.

I can no longer teach sales people to be more effective at cold calling when I can channel their activity, energy and skills toward referrals, which they all want to have more of.

The business owner who asked the LinkedIn question was looking for more than doing a good job and waiting for clients to refer others. In his words he wants to know how to “push” his clients to refer. This program will not teach you how to push others, but it is about being proactive in your referral efforts, which leads to more referrals.

Joanne has plenty of resources on her web site If referral selling is striking a cord with you, I encourage you to order her book.  The system is simple, but not easy. If you get stalled developing your system give us a call.  We’re trained in coaching teams and individuals through the program.


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