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The “Can You Send Me Some References?” Request

“I’m often asked for references from prospects. I have great clients that rave about us and have given us permission to use them as a reference. However, I’m noticing that I’m not closing many of the deals that asked for references. What gives?”

I’m glad you’re asking this because the common conclusion a lot of salespeople might come to is that their references are no good, and that could be a HUGE mistake/miscalculation based on what you’ve said about your references.

When Prospects Ask for References

When a prospect asks for references, salespeople tend to get very excited as they view this as a potential “buying signal” and, in some cases, it most certainly is. However, there is a time and a place within the sales process to give references, and handing them out at the wrong time can not only cost you a deal, but it could also eventually lead to burning out your references as well.

References are Gold. Here’s When To Use Them

References are gold and you want to treat them as such. Here are three sales questions you will need answers to before agreeing to send over a list of your references…

#1: What Role Does this Prospect Play?

You’ve got to know your prospect’s role within the decision-making process. Are they the Decision Maker or are they an Information Gatherer? I suspect a big reason you aren’t seeing as many closes as you are expecting once a prospect asks for references is that the person asking is what I call an “Information Gatherer” – meaning just that, they have no power (although they sometimes act as if they do) and “references” is just a common question they ask.

#2: Is Problem Recognition Established?

Has the prospect agreed that there is a problem and has committed to wanting a solution? You could have the greatest references in the world but if your prospect has not yet committed to solving the problem your references will have very little effect if they are even contacted.

#3: And finally: “What Happens Next?”

As in:

“Mr. Prospect, assume for a moment that our references check out and they are top-notch… what happens next? Where do we go from there?”

When you ask the “What happens next” question if your prospect says something like “I’ll need to run it by my boss” then you certainly missed a step in the sales process or flat out poorly executed the “Qualifying the prospect’s decision-making role”.

If your prospect says, “I’ll still have to check your competitor’s product/service” then they are not yet sold on your solution. There is no sense in sending references to a prospect that is not ready to commit to you even if the references give you a glowing review.

I’ve found that references can help you close deals however they have to be given at the right time. When I ask the “what happens next” question and the prospect answers “if they check out, we will sign up” THAT is the time to email your references over and you will be assured that if they do indeed contact your clients, it will not be in vain.

– 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.