As discussed in part 2 of the interview series with Mike Garrison, referral selling expert and President of Garrison Sales Consulting, building a referral culture requires sales buy-in and alignment with marketing. Here Trisha Winter, CMO of Amplifinity and Mike, dive into how marketing can drive inbound referrals and enable sales to gather outbound referral to create a predictable referral selling system that grows revenue.

How enable referral culture to flourish within marketing

Trisha: Hi there, I’m Trisha Winter, CMO at Amplifinity and joining me today for another conversation about referral culture is Mike Garrison, business coach with referral sales expertise. Thank you for joining me Mike.

Mike: Happy to be here.

Trisha: So previously we talked about why referrals are important for a CEO as they’re thinking about growing revenue in their company and how to drive that down through the organization. Then we talked about sales and what’s important to sales in driving this, not just as a strategy but as a culture. Today I’d really like to discuss marketing in a lot more detail.

Mike: I love marketing.

Trisha: I do too. That’s why we get along, Mike.

Mike: That’s because we love referrals. And what is referrals?

Trisha: Yeah. Absolutely, it is a type of marketing. It’s a type of selling. It’s something that truly bridges between sales and marketing and that’s the beauty of it as we’re all trying to get better aligned. You know, smarketing is the term we throw out there.

Mike: Referrals are the world’s first and best form of marketing.

Trisha: Nice!

Mike: Word-of-mouth.

Trisha: Absolutely.

Mike: In fact I remember a couple of campaigns that are 2,000+ years old.

Trisha: (Laugh.) It’s the genesis of it all and we’re just coming back to it now in a smart way and it’s kind of because we’re forced to. Marketers are hitting a wall with the noise out there. We are trying to reach prospects. We’re trying to break through, but things that were successful a couple years ago aren’t and all of a sudden our conversion rates are going down a little bit. And you know we keep optimizing, we’re good at that in marketing. We get the data and tweak it, but it’s just not driving the revenue growth that the CEO is demanding, and that’s why marketers need to start thinking about how they can drive a referral strategy. This means changing their thinking in a referral culture. But tell me Mike, what do you think that this truly means that marketing needs to be doing?

Mike: I would say that if you’re a CMO, or just someone in the marketing department, welcome to the good news. Because here’s the deal, word-of-mouth marketing, contrary to all of the horrible referral training that 99% of the market puts out there, all of that stuff requires your expertise. When it comes to referrals, marketers, professionals, when you embrace this culture, knock down the fences and the walls, go out to lunch with the salespeople, together you have a complete referral culture. Because if there is one things you guys know how to do, it is how to measure, it is how to be responsible, it is how to predict and forecast. You guys know this stuff, you know it is not about personality. It is about messaging and communication. And when you understand that you’re going to get excited. So when think about it from a marketing standpoint, you guys are in charge, especially if you use Amplifinity or a software that helps you get those surprise referrals at the bottom that you can’t predict but you can if you harness the right technology (life referral software). See Trisha for more information on that.

But you guys understand that you can own inbound. Like the marketing department is going to own and run the inbound marketing for referrals. You guys are amazing. That’s going to have the salespeople love you. Those inbound aren’t leads, they’re referrals. Then, when you understand that you’re role in the outbound is no long just to push messages incessantly on social media and advertising, but instead to support the salespeople with your expertise. This is talking to a buyer that the only way to speak to is being referred. Salespeople are going to need all of marketing folks to help them move that customer from a status quo, meaning they’ve listened to you and talked to you because they were referred but don’t see why they should move further down the process. That is where the marketing department can come in with all of these great marketing materials. Suddenly all that you do is being designed to specifically address that target marketing, which you marketing people are experts at.

Trisha: And I think you keyed into an important word there, and that’s target buyer. Because you can’t do anything now a days in marketing. You can’t go out there and do a general lead generation campaign unless you’re specific on who it’s focused at. But I don’t think marketing always does a great job at communicating who those people are to sales. And they’re probably the most important people who need to understand who is a fit for your solution. And that is a key part of the referral. Because you don’t want introductions for the sake of introduction. You want introduction to the right people who fit and have the need for what you’re driving. Would you agree with that?

Mike: I would completely agree. It’s one of the thing we talk about in sales.  It’s like the person in the mail room will be willing to meet with you and talk to you but they’re not signing any contract. And so as the salespeople in your organization start to get referrals to the right people they’re going to need to know what to say. They can’t just talk about product. They’re going to need research. They’re going to need articles. They’re going to need to be able to bring value to that prospect before the prospect wants to look at your product. Who’s better at helping with than marketing?

And that also leads me to this marketers, you need to understand the difference between people that can refer and people that will refer. And so take that targeted marketing that you guys know, and then work with your sales department to be able to identify which of the customers are going to actually be worth the extra investment of time to be able to develop as referral sources. In addition, when you start thinking about referral channels, such as channel partners, and you start thinking about outside referral sources, as your sales people develop these relationships are going to need to be able to tap into your expertise to able to develop customized material that will go through another company or salesperson to their customers. This is something sales reps know little about. And when you create a referral culture and your CEO is involved and they’ve got the vision; when your salespeople are involved and have taken marketing out to lunch to ask them for referrals and try and get to know them, then you guys as marketer become an invaluable asset. Here you get to do what you really know how to do best – analyze data, create customized messaging, solve communication problems, ensure that what can be automated is automated and done really well, and what is personal is preserved. The salespeople have got to have the time to do the human-to-human and they can’t do it without marketing. In fact, the entire sales effort for referrals falls apart if you don’t have an automated humanized system.

Trisha: Absolutely. A referral culture is based on the idea that there is a give-get. Many times you have an operational hassle that marketing is completely in the right position to take that hassle away from sales and really align with them. I wanted to dive in a little bit more to inbound versus outbound referrals.  So tell me a little bit about those two types of referral and marketing’s role in that.

Mike: I also call it reactive and proactive. So reactive referrals happen when someone remembers you and your organization and tells someone about it. Which sounds like marketing to me.

Trisha: Absolutely. If we’ve done a good job at putting out information about it and enabling people to bring us that introduction then we could get that repetitive type of referral.

Mike: Especially if you use a really good piece of software. So within the marketing department the inbound is how you are building brand awareness. The inbound is how you are consistently helping salespeople and other people, not just employees but channel partners and channel marketers, but helping to place them in a position where these referrals can happen consistently and then over a period of time you will be able to predict it and understand what is necessary and effective. And you guys measure it. So inbound is just too hard for the sales department. They just can’t do it. Then there is the way sales complains, ‘Well we get all these leads but they don’t convert.’ But when your inbound is referrals that’s a different concept. We’re not talking about little catchy emails to people that have never heard of you. We’re talking about people saying, ‘Wow, that was an amazing Facebook video. How do I get a hold of them?’ Sound like something Amplifinity can help with?

Trisha: Absolutely.

Mike: And you guys are unique in the way that Amplifinity is the only company I know that values the sales rep explicitly. And marketing, as weird as that sounds, that’s your secret. When the sales rep feels that the inbound is personalized to them you are an asset. Outbound – proactive. This is what everyone has gotten messed up on. We’ve restricted outbound in so many ways to cold calling, to emailing, and I’m not saying those are bad. I’m just all about what’s most effective and nothing is more effective than a referral if you are proactive. The proactive side of marketing is you guys can help identify and help the salespeople identify as you build relationships and be very proactive and more effective with their outbound reaches to referral sources. And then, because of your ability to gather data and assess it, you could be a coach to the sales reps and sales leaders. Here marketing leads the inbound and coaches the outbound. This doesn’t mean you don’t create great messaging campaigns

Trisha: Yeah, and I definitely agree with that. I think fundamentally as a marketer if you can approach both inbound and outbound, putting them together in a holistic solution where again you can eliminate the hassle for sales you can gets true sales and marketing alignment. It really is the first approach of its kind. It really says, ‘Hey, I truly own a revenue objective now in marketing. I can see the direct impact that I’m driving both on driving inbound referrals as well as enabling outbound referrals.’ And truly share that with sales. And that’s the biggest mistake I see on the marketing side is that when marketing decides to do a referral program they try to do it in isolation from sales. It is a big mistake. It is not just that I think it is a mistake. We do an annual study of all the referrals program run on Amplifinity, both customer and partner programs, and the results show that programs that have sales involved and alignment and connection between marketing and sales are more successful. The conversion rate from referral lead to making a purchase is so much higher.

Mike: They can find that on your website by the way. And this isn’t concepts but actual data. And for marketers, this data does not decrease your value, it enhances it. And I think the future of compensation is going to include marketing and sales together.

Trisha: Absolutely. I think once marketing starts owning that marketing objective this will become a reality.

Mike: Welcome to your new Mercedes marketing.

Trisha: Com’on bonus plan!

Mike: You know, this new world, like social selling which every marketer has heard of, is referrals. It’s not something new. And believe it or not, marketers already completely understand this. You just have to shift your mind a little bit and once you do the sales department is going to call you to ask for help.

Trisha: Absolutely. So let me sum up a little bit of the fundamentals of what we’ve been talking about:

  • For marketing to truly embrace the referral culture there needs to be an alignment between sales and marketing.
  • Referrals are a channel. And you’re setting up a channel to drive inbound referrals and enable outbound referrals. Starting way back in the beginning you’re helping sales to be educated on who they want to get as a referral.
  • You need to drive and apply that expertise that marketing has built up in a different way to really enable these introductions and conversations versus just thinking about data and conversions.

We’ve talked about the referral culture top down. We’ve talked about how to build it in sales, and now how to build it in marketing. Next time let’s get together and talk about the common joe employee and what their role is.

Mike: I can’t wait!

Trisha: Awesome! Thanks Mike.

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