How to ask for referrals
Integrate it into your customer journey
A steady stream of customers being referred to you through word-of-mouth is an asset that any SaaS company would love to have, yet its surprising how few playbooks exist to actually drive referrals.
In fact, many SaaS companies actually make it really hard for themselves to drive referrals because they silo their customer-facing teams (customer success and support) away from their customer-acquisition teams (sales and marketing).
Yes there are some established digital marketing tactics like affiliate marketing and prompts to share on social, however these tend to only work in B2C models or self-serve B2B models.
For the remainder of B2B businesses, we can get inspiration from service industries like real estate and financial advice, where the offering is a commodity and referrals are the key to growth.
Referrals are a function of recurring impact. You will always get the most referrals from the customers who are seeing the most impact from you on a regular basis. It’s no surprise that financial advisors get the most referrals when the stock market is going up and portfolio returns are strongest.
Ask for a referral immediately after you’ve demonstrated impact. Customers are most engaged in the moments when they see the positive impact of working with you. Realtors usually get the most referrals from buyers within the two months after they buy a home and are feeling great about their purchase. Similarly, venture capitalists get the most referrals to new limited partners after they’ve had an exit and distributed the gains.
There are 4 key impact moments in every customer’s journey, which gives you 4 opportunities to ask for a referral:
First impact — when onboarding is complete and your customer sees your product or service solve the problem they hired you to solve for the first time.
Business review — when you meet with your stakeholders, recap the impact delivered to date and demonstrate a commitment to your ongoing partnership.
Renewal signed — when you renew your partnership as a result of having delivered recurring impact.
Expansion signed — when your customer buys more from you because they believe you can deliver them more impcat.
Ask a simple question to generate a referral. “Who in your network do you think would also benefit from switching to <your company>?”. This prompts your customer to think about who they know and even if they say nobody comes to mind, you can ask again during the next moment.
Have a process to capitalize on the referral. As with any warm lead, time is your enemy and momentum is your friend. You need to move on it while you are still top of mind for your customer. Have an email template prepared and ready to fire off to your customer, with a paragraph about why your product makes sense for their referral, copy the relevant salesperson from your team and ask for an intro.
Integrate your referral process into your existing motions. Your goal is to make asking for referrals a habit so embed it into your existing enablement materials, QBR templates and call rubrics, set a goal for referrals and make sure you can track them in your CRM. This last piece is crucial because as soon as your salespeople see referrals closing at a higher rate than cold prospects, they will be all over asking for more.
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