April 2

Convert Referrals into Clients: The Proven 4-Step Process

A Referred Client Prospect left you a message indicating that one of your clients or friends, whom we’ll call a Referral Agent, suggested they should contact you. They may or may not reveal the reasoning behind the need to chat; usually, I find they don’t. Instead, they leave a phone number and a short message requesting a callback. 

Now, what do you do? 

Do you call them back immediately?


Returning that call is important and urgent—research shows that you’re twice as likely to convert referrals if you follow up in less than 24 hours vs more than 24 hours. But, before you pick up that phone, you must follow this 4-step process to convert referrals into clients

Step 1: Contact the Referral Agent 

Ask them, “Why did you refer me to this person?” 

Don’t assume the referral sales opportunities stem from direct experience, especially when the Referral Agent is a Client or former Client.

While that is often true, it's not in many other instances. You’re referred because of an interview you granted, a speech you’ve given at a networking event or conference, a post you wrote on your blog, or work the Referral Agent has seen you deliver for other clients.

So it's essential that you call the Referral Agent directly and, after thanking them for the referral, ask them exactly why they referred you. This information is invaluable to understanding how to position yourself successfully during the follow-up referral sales call with the Referred Client Prospect.

Additionally, use the call to get insider information on the company you were referred to. What is that company's current need, or what conversation led to your friend or your client making the referral in the first place? Dive as deep as you can and get as much context as you can directly from your Referral Agent so that you can move on to the second phase of your referral sales call follow-up call process.

Step 2: Conduct Social Reconnaissance 

Social Reconnaissance is your secret follow-up referral sales call weapon. Find the Referred Client Prospect’s LinkedIn profile and pay special attention to the content they’ve shared and engaged with over the last 90 days. Also, scroll down to see who they follow on LinkedIn and what LinkedIn newsletters they read. Then, scan those newsletters to see what kinds of content and topics were covered over the last 90-120 days. Do the same for anyone the Referred Client Prospect follows or has engaged with over that same time period.

Next, find them on Facebook. Don't worry if their profile is closed. Many people mistakenly believe that a closed Facebook profile offers no valuable insight or information about the individual. However, nothing could be further from the truth depending on their security settings. Click on their About section and look at what Facebook shares with you. Again, if they have not tightened down their security settings, Facebook will give you a lot of information about who the individual is, where they live, where they've worked, where they went to school, and relatives or family members along with Facebook pages they have liked, places they've checked into, music, books, and movies they fancy.

Additionally, if their profile is closed but one of their family members profiles is not closed, you can use that open family member profile to learn additional information about the person's personal life that will give you a more well-rounded picture of who they are, the challenges they face, and additional Conversational Catalysts you can use to establish as a conversational starter to establish common ground when you make the initial follow up phone call.

If the Referred Client Prospect’s Instagram is private, it’s useless to you. However, if the profile or family members are public, Instagram is a goldmine of insightful information because it's photographically oriented. We commonly share pictures in our everyday lives and don't realize how much information about us is contained in every photo we share.

Step 3: Define Potential Sales Conversation Topics

Based on everything you find in your quick Social Reconnaissance effort, look at your firm or, if you're a solopreneur or freelancer, your work product, and ask yourself what are the most important things that you could tell the Referral Client Prospect during the referral sales follow-up call

Notice I said could, not should. Be selective with what you plan to share. Think about the key people in your organization, relevant past clients or projects, individual services you offer, products you sell, thought leader content you've created and key differentiators between you and your competition.

Most importantly, write all of this down. Please don't rely on your memory. Instead, prepare a document to have open on your screen — written in very large text (if you're old and blind like me 😂) so that it's easy to read — think of it as a pseudo teleprompter to ensure you have instant access to all relevant knowledge during the call. 

Step 4: Google the Referral You Want to Convert

Here again, you're looking for anything that you can use to understand better the person's situation, which has led to them having a conversation with your Referral Agent, which ultimately created this opportunity for you to have a referred call with them. Add this information to the Social Recon you've written, and think about how you might suggest they respond to any situations you discover.

Now You're FINALLY Ready to Call The Referral Client Prospect Back

Managing The Referral Client Prospect Follow-Up Call 

Call them, and first, thank them for reaching out. But whatever you do next, DO NOT jump into selling by asking them how you can help them or anything business-oriented.  Instead, ask them how they know your Referral Agent

This question aims to surface potential Conversational Catalysts you uncovered during your pre-referral sales call, Social Recon. Take the opportunity to engage in some small talk, steering the conversation toward potential common ground topics to help build a bridge between your world and the Referred Client Prospect’s world. This helps create an empathetic connection, likability, and trust — the holy trifecta of successful business development efforts.

Then, if they don't eventually pivot the conversation to work, tell them how much you’re enjoying it, but you know they’re busy and want to respect their valuable time.

Then ask THE question: What can I tell you about us, or what questions can I answer to help you determine if [Referral Agent] was right when they suggested you call me?

The final step—and this is the hardest—shut up and take copious notes, or better yet, record the call so you can focus on actively listening.

You’ll have an opportunity to speak at some point, but whatever you do, DO NOT begin talking about yourself or how you can help solve any of the issues you just heard about. Instead, ask follow-up questions to help you learn more about the why, what, and how behind the issues your Referred Client Prospect just shared.

Follow-up questions demonstrate that you listened, understood, and want to know more. They also communicate that you’re entirely focused on the other speaker, trying to understand their pain points, excited to learn more, and, most importantly, value the Referred Client Prospect enough to listen to understand rather than sell.

ONLY after you’ve shown enormous interest in UNDERSTANDING do you begin to share any points you'd previously written down as examples of how you've addressed similar issues or how you might approach addressing whatever pain points they just shared.

The Goal of the Referral Follow-Up Call 

The conversational goal of the referral sales follow-up call isn't to sell. Instead, you aim to help the Referral Client Prospect complete their education, helping them understand you and your company’s solutions. Focus on having a conversation vs. launching into a sales pitch—which is precisely what EVERY other company they call will do.

By the end of the call, you'll better understand whether a subsequent call is warranted. More importantly, you’ll have established the foundation for a stronger future long-term relationship regardless of whether you’re hired to solve the immediate problem.

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This post was originally published on Painless Prospecting, the weekly sales and marketing blog created by the fine folks at Converse Digital. If you want to learn how to create, engage in, and convert conversations into new clients and customers, give them a call

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