Lead Generation 1 Comment

This Is How You Skyrocket Sales Referrals – It’s Easier Than You Think

Greg Poirier

August 21st, 2017

referral sales strategies examples

It’s no secret that word of mouth referral sales are one of the most promising channels for earning new business. Most companies, especially early stage startups, depend heavily on a well oiled referral engine to build momentum. But this can be an effective lead gen strategy for enterprise businesses too. 

Other ways companies generate leads early in their sales development are by leveraging speaking engagements, co-marketing, organic search, social media and paid advertising.

From my experience, I can tell you this:

Referrals close at a high rate and are on average worth significantly more in ARR by client.

How To Generate Leads From Existing Clients

It’s simple. I’ll break down the 3 elements you can leverage to get more referral leads right now:

  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • Client Videos

Buyers have become increasingly cynical and no longer care about investigating your product or services like they once did.

Often they need some sort of third party validation; particularly when you’re trying to close the deal in a long, complex sales cycle.

If you are a young organization or scaling quickly, you won’t have enough referrals to base your business on.

However, you can get great testimonials, case studies and customer stories – which is the next best thing. They are in essence, a proxy for referrals.

Why Testimonials Matter

We’d like to believe that potential clients spend their time pouring over every line of the Overview, Goals and Scope we so carefully write.

However, what we now know is, many only peruse those sections.

Instead, on a per page basis, most clients disproportionately spend more time reading the Testimonials section.

Before putting pen to paper (or e-signature in our case), people want an extra piece of reassurance. For that reason, we’ve peppered key pages on our site with testimonials and even have a whole page dedicated to them, which we feature in the top level navigation.

Often we are engaged by potential clients who aren’t in the same city as us and have yet to meet us before they sign off on our first project.

Testimonials provide those potential clients that reassurance that they “aren’t the first” and demonstrate our history of expertise.

The Secret To Getting More Customer Testimonials

direct sales vs channel sales

Tactic 1 – Work Testimonials Into Your Contract

Some larger clients may redline these sections out, which is fine, but most won’t. At the end of the day, permission for testimonial and logo usage should be included in every proposal you send.

Obviously you still need to wow the client and then ask them to provide a quote – but this covers what’s often your biggest hurdle: legal.

Tactic 2 – Simply ASK!

When we ask most clients why they don’t have more testimonials, the answer is quite simply their customers aren’t providing them.

Meaning, customers aren’t phoning them up and offering amazing quotes.

If you want testimonials (and you should) you need to request them.

Obviously it’s important to be courteous, but if you’ve done a great job, there is no shame in asking for a referral. This should be done on a call or in person, with a follow up email after you make the ask.

In addition to a quote, we also request a high quality version of their logo with a transparent background and a head shot (we often offer to use their LinkedIn head shot – this is what most people end up doing anyways). A quote is powerful.

A quote with a head shot makes a person “more real.” The logo is the icing on the cake.

When requesting a quote and logo, be sure to notify the client where this will appear – ensure they’re never surprised. At a minimum, request permission to use their testimonial and head shot in your proposals, website and printed collateral like product one sheets.

Tactic 3 – Ask At The Right Time

The request needs to be made while the client is still actively engaged with you, but a project has been completed. If you wait too long it seems like an afterthought. Ask too early and you are requesting they provide feedback on something they can’t give context to.

Tactic 4 – Make Them Look Good

Don’t take on project you can’t do an amazing job at. There is a fine line between running an organization at capacity and taking on more work than you can execute on.

There is also a fine line between taking on a stretch client and taking on one that you can’t possibly service properly. Don’t be greedy.

Serve your clients well and they’ll be happy to advocate for you and help grow your business. You’ll know you’ve hit your stride when they start referring new business to you.

Case Studies

conversation qualified lead

How To Ask For Case Studies

Begin by introducing the idea of a case study in terms of how progressive a client they have been, how well their project went, and how perfect that project would be to feature in a case study.

In short, make it about them and make them the hero.

Yes, you are going to benefit from it. But focusing on a use case that demonstrates your client’s success is going to make them happier and produce a story that is more likely to resonate with a potential client.

What To Write About

The most common mistake we see companies make when producing case studies is to make them too broad. Choose opportunities to highlight a very specific success. Explain how it was done and demonstrate quantifiable execution.

Don’t approach a case study as needing to be so broad it applies to every possible prospect you may ever have. Instead show how a very distinct success was accomplished and celebrate your client’s success, not your own.

Case Study Best Practices & Tips

There is a fairly well known structure for case studies and you can find templates to help online. At its heart though, the case study should follow the formula of Problem, Solution, then Results.

  • Problem – Be specific about the challenge or goal.
  • Solution – Discuss how and why your product/approach worked.
  • Results – Specific metrics: time, cost, improve/reduce.

When writing all of this, be specific. Talk about the problem that was solved or the opportunity that was created. Describe how success was achieved and offer metrics and quotes to support your case.

Client Videos

Client videos are a powerful medium and they don’t have to be expensive. In your earliest stages, they can be as simple as someone using a high quality smart phone camera. The key is to make sure you have great lighting and the audio is clear. Most other things can be fixed with some creative editing.

Keep it short and to the point. While you might interview a client for 30 minutes (be sure to provide questions in advance), the finished product might be as short as two minutes. If you are lucky, there are also key quotes that can be highlighted in a composite video outlining multiple clients.

Wrap Up

Videos, testimonials and case studies often get shortchanged because they aren’t seen as lead generation tools. However, when used effectively they are extremely powerful at enabling sales. Once you have a lead convinced they have a problem, you need to start selling them on the fact that  your organization is the credible solution to their problem. Videos, Case Studies and Testimonials are how you do that.

About the author

Greg Poirier

Greg Poirier is president of CloudKettle, a company that specializes in scaling Sales, Marketing & Customer Success for B2B SaaS Companies. A former manager at Radian6 (acquired by Salesforce) and executive at two other startups, Greg's also a sought after speaker at Accelerators and Incubators.

  • Word of mouth allows you to turn existing clients into new lead opportunities. If you know that your customers love your product or service, they’ll naturally want to share it with those in their circles. This presents new opportunities for you.

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