There has been a lot of talk about driving revenue growth through predictable referrals and the impact it has on a business. But figuring out how to successfully implement it can be difficult.  In a recorded interview, Trisha Winter, CMO of Amplifinity talks to Mike Garrison, President of Garrison Sales Consulting, about how to start to build a referral culture within and across your company.

The process of building a referral culture in your company – Interview

Trisha: Hello, I’m Trisha Winter, CMO of Amplifinity and today I’m interviewing Mike Garrison, business coach with referral sales expertise. Really excited to talk to you today, Mike. Thanks for joining me.

Mike: You’re very welcome.

Trisha: So Mike, I’ve heard you talk before. I know that when you’re working with your clients and coaching them on what it means to get referrals predictably in a business I’ve heard you mention referral culture. So tell me a little about what you mean by that.

Mike: When I think about referral culture I’m not looking at how you just get referrals but the entire system from every single employee in the organization – CEO to mail room clerk. How does every single person not only play a role, but play a role you can leverage for predictable sales. I say predictable referral system but really it’s about can you forecast the sales results, and you can. And so referral culture is how you look at the entire way you interact with prospects and clients. Not when you are just thinking about how you can get results right now. For example, for CEOs leadership is everything when you’re considering the concept of referral culture. As a CEO you have to look at the culture of your organization and see whether it supports or it doesn’t support referrals on a continuous predictable basis.

Trisha: Got it. So truly why is a CEO thinking about this or should they be thinking about building a referral culture? I get where you are probably talking to the VP of Sales and working through this but what brings this on the radar of a CEO?

Mike: The right kind of CEO it works for are those that are about leadership and about sustainable growth. This means those that are really responsible for the best long-term interests of an organization. Everyone that is in business knows that referrals win. Nothing is better than a referral. So, the question becomes if referrals are really that valuable how can you make them the cornerstone? Not the only way you do business but the cornerstone. And in all of my year of working with sales teams, which is too many to admit to, the #1 thing that makes or breaks sales is the referral culture.

When I went out to visit Amplifinity, even though all you do is referrals, it was immediately apparent that everyone in the business was invested in and interested in customer success and the long-term growth of the company. That is what I’m talking about. A CEO has got to be thinking about how to make sure that six months from now, a year from now, two years from now, three years from now that we can be not only successful but unique. Branding is everything in a social world. A referral culture sets the standard from marketing experts like yourself, for the people that answer the phones, for every person that interacts or impacts the interaction with customers to add or detract from the culture of the business and especially referral culture.

Trisha: And I completely agree but I think that is very different way of thinking. As an executive thinks about their business and approaches revenue growth they’re looking in a very siloed way at sales and marketing, maybe the channel organization to say, okay we’ve got to drive revenue growth. They’re not thinking about it as every single employee in the company has a role in this and that role may be very different from one department to another. But truly it is a growth culture by being a referral culture. I think that is very new.

How would a CEO even approach this?

Mike: Well, one of the way they could approach it is read a book called Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard. This talks about how even the most commoditized of businesses can get referrals. Now I’ll remind you this is before social media. But this is where referral culture started to stick for me. I read that book and it talked about how a gas station, car driver and a grocery store could create raving fans from their customers. And have spectacular growth even within heavily commoditized industries.

And so from the CEO perspective, if you really want referrals, and we know you do, whether you’re ADP or Joe the plumber, instead of listening to all the people that come out and talk out tactics here and tactics there you need to teach customers and partner or whoever to give referrals which is what my training offers.

Trisha: So if you were to coach a CEO on how to build this referral culture within their organization where would you tell them to start?

Mike: I would first ask them all the standard questions that coaches ask. But when you get down to it the fundamental core conversation I would have with that CEO is how can we make your business better. A referral culture isn’t how we can make money, it’s about how can we make it better. And then I would ask that person to start getting face-to-face with as many employees from as many different sectors as possible. Silos kill referral culture. Talk to your employees and ask how you can make it better.

Trisha: Got it. So a big thing we find at Amplifinity when people are looking to get that revenue growth and looking to really build referral programs that together build a channel for predictably driving inbound, high quality leads, is the idea it’s really a tightly aligned program between sales and marketing and often even customer success. I don’t know of any other type of initiative that really goes cross departments to align the goals of these typically siloed departments. Is that part of what you are talking about in building the culture?

Mike: Well it is a whole system. You have to look at every aspect. Like technology within marketing and sales, especially in larger companies, your CTOs and technology experts have got to be involved because you’ve got to leverage relationships not only face-to-face but across networks. Now-a-days, referral culture requires technology. In order for you to be able to get enough business consistently you’ve got to have resources and you’ve got to have ways of communicating effectively. It’s not like you have to do this all face-to-face, you can leverage great technology like Amplifinity referral software. You’ve got the bedrock of a referral culture which can bring referrals in with the technology that create predictable revenue. The only way you can do that predictably is software like Amplifinity. You cannot predict the human-to-human relationship unless you can get back up to the top of the funnel. Let human beings do the hard relationship development of prospects that aren’t in the market and then use technology to leverage these relationships you already have with customers to have these surprise referrals not be surprises any more. That only works with technology. And when you talk about a CEO, that CEO has got to have a vision of a complete system so that they can make sure they don’t spend money on the wrong things.

But when you get down to it, if the CEO lives and breathes referral culture it will bring in HR as well. You will hire differently when you have a real referral culture. Good news is that the younger generation are really inclined toward these thing. These folks seem to be really oriented toward relationships. As CEO, long-term I would be trying to leverage these people’s predilection toward developing a relationship.

Trisha: Absolutely! So in future conversations I would really love to dive into the different departments like marketing, sales and the standard employee and what their role would be in this referral culture. But overall this was a great conversation. Here are a few point we touched on:

  • Referrals need to be a priority on the CEOs radar because it is what they can do to break through the noise.
  • Referrals allow CEOs to really change up the way they’re thinking about driving revenue to make it predictable and truly give them a way to meet the growth objective they’re driving toward.
  • It’s not just about deciding to buy a certain technology. While it is an important foundational part of it, it is really about driving a change within the organization across departments. Here we can make sure everyone is playing their role in thinking about driving growth for the company which can be done through the smallest changes in attitude, how they talk to customer and partners. This is something a CEO needs to be driving across departments by working with each department moving forward.

Does that sum it up well?

Mike: I’d say so.

Trisha: Okay. Well thank you so much for talking with me today Mike and I look forward to talking to you next time about sales and what sales can do to help build a referral culture.

In the meantime, explore the Amplifinity resource library to keep learning how to build your referral culture.