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Top Mistakes Made By Sales Professionals

Failure to effectively generate referrals and introductions from present clients, prospects and other professionals...

By Al Simon
Sandler Sales Institute
Part 1 of 2

...and set them up on the tee properly. The biggest resource any company has is their client base. You may be very uncomfortable going to your clients and asking for referrals.

You may be able to approach other professionals, like accountants, attorneys, bankers, etc. and say, "OK, if you have some prospective clients, can you send them our way?" Then when nothing happens, you don't know what to do. You think you're doing the right activities because you have gone to the Chamber meetings, the lunches, etc. but nothing materializes.

Try this. You're having lunch with an attorney:

(You) If you're like a lot of the attorneys in town, you are probably looking for ways to expand your business. You can imagine, we are also looking to expand our business as well and one of the reasons that I thought it might make sense for us to get together and have lunch is to talk about ways that we might be able to help each other.

(Attorney) Good.

(You) Does that make sense? Is that something that you would have an interest in?


(You) So it might make sense for me to tell you about the types of people I'm looking for and what you might be able to do for me. Then, you can tell me a little about the types of people you do business with and what I might be able to do for you. Then we can decide whether or not we can help each other. Does that make sense?

(Attorney) Yes.

(You) If we decide to do that, then we will discuss the ground rules on how we are going to go about it and how the mechanics might work. However, it must be win-win for both of us. I mean, if you sent me three clients and I never sent you anybody, how would you feel?

(Attorney) Terrible.

(You) Ok, if the roles were reversed and I sent you three and you didn't send me any, how would I feel?

(Attorney) We would both feel bad.

(You) How do we avoid that? How do you think it should work?

(Attorney) Well, first we'll do this ...

(...then you schedule a time table).

(You) Maybe we can get together in 60 days to see how it's working out.

Now the other mistake most frequently made, is professionals who don't go back to their clients and get referrals and introductions. Often the reason this is happening is because we don't want to appear to be taking advantage of them. With the right tonality, body language, and explanation of how important referrals and introductions are to your business, and with the promise of this relationship being a two-way street, that reasoning is neutralized.

Let's assume that wasn't the problem. Let's assume you can actually go to your clients and get them to introduce you to people who might have interest in your service. And let's pretend you talk to these people that they have introduced you to. What is the likelihood that these individuals will become new clients? How much credibility are you going to have? Is there a much higher new client conversion? Absolutely there is. So, one way to justify changing your mindset is you'll have more clients. Work smart, not hard.

One of the things you will find is that clients like to be associated with successful people. Nobody wants to have an "unsuccessful" accountant, right? Nobody wants to go to the doctor to be the only one in the waiting room. People want to work with successful people. So, if they can help you, they will, but it confirms their decision to work with you in the first place. So, what you need to do is get comfortable approaching your clients and giving them a reason to help you. The one way to do that is when you're talking to your clients, remind them again of your value in a nurturing way:

(You) One of the reasons I called, Carl, was to find out how we're doing.

(Carl, the client) We're doing great.

(You) OK. Anything else that we can be doing for you?

(Carl) No, thanks, I'm very happy.

(You) You know, Carl, one of the things that we really would like to do is spend as much of our time as possible servicing our clients, good clients like you, and the problem is in order for us to be in today's market, we still need to grow. Growing means sales. You know, I didn't become an accountant to be a salesman, so given the choice, I prefer to spend 90% of my time talking to people like you -- making sure I'm taking care of your needs and only 10% doing that other thing called selling....

Part 2: Get Your Referrals On A Silver Platter

©2002 Sandler Systems, Inc. The Sandler Sales Institute is an international sales & management training/consulting firm since 1967. For a free paperback edition of "Why Salespeople Fail And What To Do About It," call the Sandler Sales Institute @ 770-281-9090, or visit us at