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How to Use References to Win New Business

Sales Scripts for Cold Calling

How to Use References to Win New Business

“I thought when a prospect asks for references, that is considered to be a buying signal. The references we give out are from very satisfied clients that have given us permission to do so, but we still aren’t seeing an increase in sales on those situations. What are we doing wrong?”

Your prospect just asked you for references and you feel they just gave you a buying signal. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t.

Every business/salesperson needs to have a list of satisfied clients who would be willing to take a call and or answer an email from a potential prospect. So that is step one.

Once you have that list, you’ll want to use it only in certain situations.

If you are having a less than satisfactory win ratio when handing out references (and you know the references are in your favor), you may be guilty of “skipping steps” in the sales process and relying too heavily on your “references/testimonials” to close the deal for you.

You also run the risk of burning out your clients’ generosity of being an advocate for you by bombarding them with unqualified or “less than ready to move forward” prospects.

So you need to ask a fundamental question before handing over your prized client’s contact information when a prospect asks:

“Can you email me a few references that I can contact?” and that question is this:

“Sure, we can make that happen… Let me ask you this: assume you contact them, and they give you a glowing recommendation regarding our product/service. What happens next? Where do we go from there?”


The answer the prospect gives you will tell you a lot about where you stand and where they are in the decision-making process.
If your prospect responds with something like:

“Well, we will be checking references from the other vendors as well, and then we’ll have a meeting to discuss which is the best option to go with.”

Then your prospect is not ready to move forward even if the reference checks out – which means you have more conversations that need to happen first to confirm you’ve found the right solution for their needs and re-confirm their commitment to solving the problem at hand.

It’s also a possible sign that you might not be speaking with the correct person.

In short, references should not be used as a way for your prospects to discover if your solution will work for them, but rather to confirm the credibility in what you offer to solve the problem they have. There’s a huge difference.

If however, they say something to the effect of:

“Well, if the references check out, we’re ready to go!”

You’ll now know that they are sold on your solution and yes, you now have a buying signal being handed to you. Simply find out what the next steps will be once they check the references and you’ll be good to go.


What I’ve found that works best if it’s determined that the request was NOT a buying signal is to say something along the lines of:

“Mr. Prospect, testimonials, and references are a huge part of our reason for success, and I have names, numbers and email addresses from top executives in your field that have used us and are willing to speak with anyone that is ready to move forward with us. But it doesn’t sound like you’re 100% convinced yet that our solution is the right fit for you. Why don’t we take a few minutes to discuss what some of your concerns are and see if we can put them to rest and if we can, and all you need next is to speak with someone who has already used our services before, I can send those names on over to you, fair enough?”


Not only will this type of response from you in this situation help uncover concerns that need to be addressed, but it will also avoid wasting your best client’s time. Something they will appreciate.

Try it and watch your win ratio rise.

– Michael Pedone

Michael Pedone teaches inside sales teams how to pick up the phone and close business. He is the CEO/FOUNDER of SalesBuzz.com – An online sales training company.