As discussed in part 1 of the interview series with Mike Garrison, referral selling expert and President of Garrison Sales Consulting, building a referral culture requires leadership. But this includes leadership within individual departments. Here Trisha Winter, CMO of Amplifinity and Mike dive into how to develop a referral culture within sales in order to create a predictable referral selling system that grows revenue.


How to instill a referral culture within your sales team – Interview

Trisha: Hi, I’m Trish Winter, CMO of Amplifinity and today I’ve got Mike Garrison with me who is a business coach with a ton of referral selling expertise. Thank you for joining me today Mike.

Mike: Hey, it’s my pleasure. You know I hate talking.

Trisha: Oh yeah. So this is our second conversation. Last time we talked we were talking about  referral culture and why it’s such an important initiative top down at an organization. Today I really wanted us to dive into a particular department and that’s sales. Because that is usually the first thing that everybody thinks about when they think about referrals. It’s the salesperson asking for that referral. But let’s talk about what really a referral culture means to the sales department.

Mike: Sweet! I love sales. In fact I used to have a URL called I Love Sales Coaching.

Trisha: Really?

Mike: I have issues. I have like 30 domain names. I just keep buying them. It’s like my hobby. But anyways when you get down to the sales culture it’s not just about getting. Salespeople – you can’t be predators. In the new social and digital world your customers can and will vet you all along the referral pipeline and sales funnel. So understand that you can’t just be taking but also giving.  And I know that’s a challenge, but that’s what it get down to with salespeople, you can’t just care about the deal. If you’re still trying to sell product this is not going to work for you.

And you know, I was just thinking Trish about the video we did last time and how it’s so much about leadership. Leadership isn’t restricted to the C-level. Leadership is required in referrals because you’ve got at a minimum three people involved. You’ve got the salesperson, the referral source and the prospect. And the way that you create a referral culture as a salesperson is you stop thinking in terms of getting and you start thinking in terms of leading. Treat it like your own a mini organization. You have to start asking yourself a few questions. What is necessary for my career? What is necessary for me to be growth oriented in a sustainable way? You can’t be just running outside going hunting with a spear and stabbing something. You’ve got to think about farming too.

Trisha: So I totally love the concept of leadership within an individual salesperson. But let’s talk about the sales manager, that sales VP right?  You know if you’re truly going to embrace referrals as a culture, referrals is a strategy that the sales team is going to do. And by the way that we all know they need to do because traditional selling is not working. You can’t just dial a certain number of dials a day and expect that you’re going to break through the noise. You’ve got to get that warm introduction in order to do that. But how does a sales leader approach that with their team?

Mike: Great question. So here is some good news, if you work with Amplfiinity, you’re not going to get fired by having a referral based sales function because you’re going to have technology and automation which is going to create inbound stuff that you really want. Hey sales leaders, Amplifinity makes the marketing department your friend. So enough of the shameless plugs. I love it because I work at the top of the pipeline. That’s how you and I met. I was one of the people who was like, you guys are perfect. You take care of the inbound stuff and move referrals with the salespeople to the top of the pipeline.

So here is the good news sales managers – you’ve got to be a leader. Here’s the bad news – you’ve got to be a leader. And what that means is referrals can’t be based on emotions. You’re going to have to create or work with other folks like me and Trisha. You’re going to have to create systems that move your salespeople from referrals are a done deal to referrals are an introduction to a prospect that wouldn’t talk to me otherwise. And then you’re going to need to help the salespeople figure out how to move people through a buyer’s journey without hard selling them on product. So while it’s not easier, the bright side is you may have just discovered the #1 secret to job security as a sales manager. That means all of a sudden you get to do what you’re best at – coaching your salespeople. They’re going to need it and appreciate it, and you’re going to be profitable. But we got to eliminate emotion as the reason people refer because it’s not true.

Trisha:  I completely agree. And fundamentally there’s also the aspect of making sure you’re driving the right behavior in your team.

Mike: Absolutely!

Trisha: But you still have to have accountability and metrics and measurement.  And one of my favorite things that I’ve observed sales leadership within a referral culture do is assign ownership. And this is a concept you can track within your CRM.  You assign ownership between that sales rep and that referral source.

Mike: You have to.

Trisha: And when you do you can measure and drive the sales team to certainly recruiting more referral sources but also asking on a regular basis in the right way, doing a give-get with those referral sources to drive those high-quality leads in and even routing those leads back to the sales rep that owns it to organically  incentivize your team and help to build that referral culture. That way you are saying that if you treat this referral source – customer, partner, influencer, whoever that person is, if you treat them well and they refer someone who might not be in your territory or you might not be up next in the round robin or whatever your lead routing rules are, you say they are referring them because they like the relationship they have with me as the salesperson. So because of it that’s going to come right back to me, that’s a great way a sales leader can set up a system to organically motivate their team to build this referral strategy and referral culture.

Mike: I could not agree more. And I would say that the importance of it goes beyond what you just said. A real referral culture makes sure that you’re never taking all the time. That you’re giving. And if you do the traditional round robin and take the referrals and have them handled by other sales reps that the referral sources don’t know, two horrible things happen. One, you make communication more complex. That’s not profitable. Just think about what you’re doing. You’re demanding more and more communication from a diverse network. It’s not effective.

The second thing is that you’re dramatically restricting the ability of your sales reps, the marketing team, and the customer experience team to develop the kind of insight that will drive giving referrals. Right?

That’s why I love Amplifinity. With their referral software they can automate so much of the easy stuff and predict the surprises so the sales team can focus on the high level relationship development. Which, no slam against marketing, but the people that aren’t in the market won’t respond but they will always respond to a peer. That’s how you get those appointments you would never get otherwise. I’m not talking about dials. I’m talking about appointments. And this is where sales leadership comes in. It is not good enough to just get referrals. Those referrals need to result in appointments. And maybe not selling appointments traditionally where you’re selling your product, but if your referrals aren’t resulting in at least a phone call or conversation then they might need some work. And here’s the good news sales leaders, you can do this.

Trisha: Absolutely. I think this is so critical. I preach to my sales team all the time. Guys I don’t pick up my phone anymore. I don’t even look at prospecting emails that come through. You can’t reach me that way. And this is just a fact of life at this point in time which means that sales folk and marketers need to approach this in a different way. And I think the beauty of going back to the way it has always been done for eons is I’m going to trust something because I have a peer – a trusted adviser, making a recommendation to me.

Mike: It is almost like this has been going on for thousands of year. It is crazy right?

Trisha: Oh yeah!

Mike: So I’ve got a little hint. You ready?

Trisha: Yeah

Mike: This is a new one for you. Okay, so, how many of your sales reps in your career have nurtured a relationship with you to get referrals from you?

Trisha: ZERO!

Mike: That is so stupid!

Trisha: Yes!

Mike: Right, so here’s the referral culture sale leaders. Sit down with the marketing department and find out who they are and what they’re about. They’re building relationships all the time. And if you’re a salesperson at Amplifinity . . . (shake head) why wouldn’t you as sales leaders develop a relationship with the people who are best suited to message and interact with those at the top of the pipeline? Why aren’t you getting referrals from the best people in the organization? I think we all know why. It is because you have labeled them into the inbound side. You’ve decided that they don’t know how to sell. That is all caca.

Trisha: Yeah.

Mike: I’m just saying if you’re not getting referrals, not leads, referrals. If you’re not getting referrals from the marketing department shame on you.

Trisha: I definitely think that if we’re advising sales and sales leadership on how to build a referral culture in sales that taking your head of marketing out to lunch having a real conversation about how you align together on driving a referral strategy is absolutely a top of the list thing for a sales leader to do.

Mike: And that all good. But that person has to network. I would be asking them for referrals.

Trisha: Absolutely.

Mike: If you don’t you’re an idiot. CEOs . . . you can’t have that. Those two people should be doing referrals back and forth. I know it happens at Amplifinity.

Trisha: It does. And I think fundamentally as we all begin to own the revenue objective for the company, and back to when we were talking about the CEO. The CEO needs ever single executive in every single department to be owning the revenue objective. And as soon as you embrace that and the different executive titles start asking, ‘What can I do?’, you’ll notice the people in your network that you are connected to that are fits for target buyers that you are all aiming your quivers at.

Mike: I’ve got one more. Are you ready for it?

Trisha: Yeah, go for it.

Mike: If you’re a sales leader and you and your sales team aren’t connected on every social channel with everyone is marketing and customer experience, you’re a double idiot.

Trisha: True. So let me sum up the key points we’ve been talking about here as far as driving a referral culture within sales:

  • Fundamentally there’s got to be an attitude of give-get not an old school predatory attitude.
  • Sales leadership has to really think about driving to different metrics. Not about dials-a-day but rather meaningful conversations that are driving referrals into meetings but still metrics.
  • Ensure that you consider lead-routing and what that means so you are preserving that relationship and the fruit of that relationships. The meetings with those prospects need to be handled in the right way as opposed to switching it over to a third party.
  • Certainly there is an entire set of employees out there within your organization that can help you to build your referral network and that can help you to drive interest and activity.
  • And of course align with marketing which is something I would like to talk to you next time we are together. It is going to be a key step for any sales leader. This is a great way to align and together show that marketing and sales are working together to drive their revenue objective

Did I sum that up okay?

Mike: Yep. That’s awesome!

Trisha: Wonderful! Well, until next time when we will dive into marketing’s role in building a referral culture. Thanks so much Mike!

Mike: Thanks Trisha! Take care.


Resources with link to to resource page with referral program ideas