Of all types of sales leads, referrals are the easiest to close.  However, many salespeople ask for referrals at the wrong time and in the wrong way.  They do this because they don't understand that the reason that a customer would give a referral is because they TRUST the salesperson.

And there lies the rub.  Rightly or wrongly, most people are pre-disposed to mistrust salespeople so, if you want a referral, you've got to convince your customer that you can be trusted not to waste their colleague's time.

Here are three rules, from three different sales gurus, for getting a great referral.

1. Ask after delivery, not after closing.

Many sales pros make the huge mistake of asking for a referral right after they've closed the deal.  That's dumb, because you’ve just asked the customer to take a risk by buying from you.  Why would the customer want to take another risk and refer a colleague to you?  Therefore, rather than asking for the referral outright, ask for the "right to ask." Here’s how.

When the customer says "yes", say something like:

Wonderful! Thanks for agreeing to become our customer. I have one request. I want you to think of some friends and colleagues who you think should be doing business with us – providing we are as incredible as I’ve been claiming we are. Once I proven to you, beyond all doubt, that we can deliver and delight you, I’m going ask you to contact those people to suggest they meet with me. Does that sound fair?

Source: Jeffrey Gitomer..

2. Give your customer a referral first.

This one is so simple that it’s crazy that more sales pros don't use it.  Because you're in sales, you know lots of people, right? If you use those connections to bring in some extra business for a prospect, you've earned the right – tit for tat – to ask for a referral.

The great thing about this idea is that it really does put you into the proverbial "win-win" scenario.  More money coming into your customer, means that they'll have more money to spend. It also turns you from an "outsider" into an "insider"--always a good thing for salespeople.

Source: Sam Reese, CEO of Miller Heiman.

3. Have your customer contact the referral.

Once you get an agreement for your customer to give you a referral, don't settle for contact information. While you can always say something like "Joe told me to contact you," such phrases are used so frequently that they're meaningless. For all the contact knows, Joe might have given you his name simply to get rid of you! (Don't laugh; happens all the time.)

Instead, get your colleague to take a specific action that brings you together with the prospect.  Rather than asking for a name and number, ask the referrer to call and explain who you are and why you are worth having a conversation with. Ask the referrer to get back to you to confirm that the call has been made or send an email (and copy you on the email).

Source: Joanne Black, author of No More Cold Calling.

Get even more tips from the experts!