The art of making introductions and get referrals

Why asking for business referrals ?

The business introduction is a huge driver in B2B selling. According to a study by Forrester, Word of Mouth is the #1 influencer of B2B purchase decisions.
Buying decisions mostly rely on trust from industry peers and colleagues, far beyond what the salesperson can say. From our experience, we can see 3 major benefits from getting business referrals:

  • Start your sale with trust.
  • Reach decision makers.
  • Map your targeted account in the best way.


The right attitude to take a referral

  • Use humour and be professional (as always, these are the two main characteristics or a viral business developer).
  • Don’t seem too intrusive: you can talk about your current clients and his pairs you already know; give updates on your mutual contacts (you give something he likes, he’s open to return the favor).
  • Don’t ask referrals towards his competitors.
  • Always keep you referrer in the loop all along the sales process with the target.

Keeping your referrer in the loop keeps you top-of-mind. He is likely to pass an introduction the next time you need one and is more confident in proposing again to play the referrer.

Remember: without trust, there is no room for a business referral tweet


How to get a referral? (the checklist)

  • Talk about your running projects with him, about his business and current challenges.
  • Talk about his pairs, give updates on mutual contacts, ask updates he may have on your mutual contacts.
  • Evaluate the relationship with the target: check if the relationship is strong enough between the referrer and the target.
  • Ask for the referral (be straight).
  • Give him the process (see the graph, he sends an email with you in copy, he gives you his direct line or cell phone).
  • Ask for details to map the account > it is not the right moment to ask for the traditional BANT questions (budget-authority-need-time). The good inputs you can retrieve are “who are the decision makers?” “the main influencers?”, “newcomers/leaving executives?”, “budget range?”.Thus you know a lot about your target while you talk to him the first time. You have the political ambiance, the undercover forces, the plots… You can be surprised to see how deep he knows the account.


The referral process: email, phone or physical?

You may wonder what is the best medium: ask/make an introduction via email? by phone? in physical meetings? You have to know your option from the start and don’t let the other wonder which medium suits best. Making introduction has to be easy for the referrer.

We interviewed a random slice of IKO users who constantly ask for introductions and are successful as viral business developers. We then mapped the following table:

Strength of YOUR relationship with the referrer Your approach/medium for asking (YOU>Referrer) Referral medium (Referrer>Target)
Strong relationship Direct approach by Email. Be straight to ask. Email Referrer>Target (see graph)

Mild relationship

Get a reason to call (Phone) and then ask. Email (referrer>target) OR the referrer gives you a direct line

First-time meeting

Physical. At the end of the meeting, don’t go out without referrals Same as above (MILD relationship)

The following graph illustrates the best referral process by email:


Ask the referrer to send an email to your target and put you in copy. Thus the target will surely open the email (delivery) and instantly consider you in his circle of trust (you are recommended, right?). Usually, the target will reply to the referrer with the same tone and put you in copy.

You step in his life in an informal manner and you’ll probably start your new relationship in a casual way.


How to pick up a good referrer?

Asking for a referral is easy from a satisfied client, a partner or a friend. It is also possible from a prospect (but you have to feel this thing, huh?).

Consider 3 scenarios depending on your sales tactics:

  • You know the target > check the connection paths to your target and focus on your strongest link; be open to request a co-worker to ask for a referral if he has a better introduction than yours (you can hunt in packs with IKO).
  • You are in a 360° hunting spree > analyze all of your direct network and find the ones with the most interesting connections; find the one who can play a good referrer and pick up targets in his network (you can find the best potential influencers automatically on IKO).
  • You are in a meeting > don’t leave the room without one or multiple referrals; check the connections he has to your leads and prospects (you have the intel from any profile page in IKO).


What to tell the target?

If the referral process is conducted by email, the target will give you his phone number and

  • respond to the email keeping you in copy
  • or respond directly to you with the referrer in copy.

What happens then is another story. You now have everything in hand to place the perfect call and arrange the perfect meeting.

One final stat: 80% of calls with a referral lead to a meeting! tweet

If you want to dig deeper into the drivers of referrals in business, I invite you to read the great 3-parts article from Drew Stevens on salescrunch.

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