Avocados, Referrals and Lead Generation


What, you might ask, do avocados have to do with sales? In his blog on “The avocado principles” Seth Godin states: “If you wait until you really want an avocado, the market won’t have any ripe ones. You need to buy them in advance.”

Correlation: If you wait until you really need referral leads, there won’t be any ‘ripe’ ones. Referral lead generation comes when seeds planted (you’ve done the sales behavior of asking for referrals) plus time (required for the message to meet the opportunity) result in fruit—the referred person calls to ask for help.

Seeds Planted + Time Meeting Opportunity = Referral Lead Fruit.

Why bother to ask?

In short, the justification is in the numbers: Referral leads have much higher close ratios. I’ve met salespeople who can substantiate up to 85% close ratios for referral leads over other types. Many people report additional benefits like higher average dollar sale per transaction, higher life-time customer value, and a better quality of customer (exhibiting traits like paying on time and valuing what you bring to the table). These occur in part because of the trust they have in you based on the referral source relationship and recommendation.

Why we don’t ask

What gets in the way of developing and executing on a habit of asking for referrals? There are many excuses, but they have two common themes:

  1. The perspective that I can’t ask for a referral until after the sale is done and the customer is ecstatically happy, and;
  2. That asking once is enough.

What might happen if we learned to push past those limiting thoughts to do the following:

  • Ask the person who doesn’t buy from me, because they may know others who are interested.
  • Explain to prospects that your best customers come from referrals and if things work out well, you’d hope they will behave in kind.
  • Add a “Thank you for your referrals” tag line on all your prospect and customer correspondence.
  • Ask for a referral when you do your presentation, deliver your proposal, when you follow up after the sale.
  • Ask for referrals when you touch base 3-6-12 months later to make sure everything is still going well with the work you delivered.

Change your actions and get better results

I’m certain that you can come up with other creative ways to ask for referrals that I haven’t mentioned here. If you don’t ask, you’ve given up the small bit of control that you have regarding referral lead generation. You may still get lucky, but why leave to luck what you can guide by your actions? Get courageous. Ask for referrals. You never know what might come as a result of your bravery.

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