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Sales referrals – In business, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it

In an uncertain market, customers are more likely to rely on recommendations and referrals.

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Sales referrals are a tried and tested method that one can use to boost profits and sales. Indeed, it is one of the oldest tactics in the sales industry. It has endured since the days of telegrams and penny farthings, and has been well adapted to emails and spreadsheets which represent the bread and butter of the modern industry. Simply put, sales referrals work.

This is backed up by academic research and leading publications like the Harvard Business Review which consistently report on its efficacy. According to the review, 90% of purchasing decisions are made with peer recommendations in mind. What’s more, sales referrals work consistently well across sectors and industries.

So how do you actually go about getting sales referrals? While it is certainly true that each particular industry will have its own quirks, you can use a basic sales referral template to achieve success in any sector. All you need to do is apply this template to your processes with enough planning to adapt it to specific industry issues and potential surprises or hiccups.

What’s your long-term plan?

First things first, if you want to get sales referrals, you need to begin with a decent plan. Your strategy should focus on growing your target audience, expanding into new audiences, and the total number of referrals you’re aiming for. After you know your strategy, focus on which methods you’ll use to secure referrals, either using email or a referral portal system.

Directness is a key issue to consider during the planning stage, you need to consider how obvious your referral system will be. Some industries will demand a subtle approach, so you may want to plan on your sales referrals coming from the customer care stage. Other industries, especially those with high sales volumes, are more suited to a direct approach.

Your sales referral plan needs to take into account your key metrics and work out how referrals will boost them. The following metrics are particularly relevant to sales referrals;

  • Referral page hits: the number of unique visits to your referral page or landing portal.
  • Referral conversion rate: how many of your referrals actually go on to make a purchase.
  • Clickthrough rate: how many recipients of referral emails open and use them.

Know whom to ask and when to ask them

You’ve got your plan and now you have to put it into action, so where do you start? Regardless of the industry you work in or the sales referral template you have, your success is predicated on identifying the right people to ask and the correct method with which to do so. Choose the wrong method in either case and you run the risk of driving potential customers away.

It’s relatively easy to discover which individuals should be your sales referral targets, especially in B2B sales, as you’re looking for key decision-makers. If your customers are primarily in the general public, you can set up surveys to gain their feedback. If their responses are positive to a sufficient degree you then ask this group to provide referrals.

When to ask them is a more complicated matter as timing and presentation are crucial. Again, this will depend on the industry you work in, but a good rule of thumb is to ask after you have provided something to a customer, whether that be a purchase, discount, or service. Try to secure as many referrals as you can, especially via email, but don’t waste your time by contacting people who will either refuse or may even refer to your company negatively.

Automate your referral process

A good sales referral system is one that is automated, ie, it runs and perpetuates itself. We’ve already covered one of the tools you can use to automate the process, which is sending out surveys to happy customers. What you also need to do is to create an email template that is also customizable.

The following email is a good template you can use, just remember that you need to customize it. A good idea to bear in mind is that you can alter up to 50% of your email templates without cutting efficiency;


I saw that you gave us a top score on the customer satisfaction survey we sent you, thank you!
We’re delighted that you’re so happy with our work.

I’d like to ask you a favor, would that be alright? I’m actively looking for new people who will appreciate our company’s products as much as you did.

Could you please recommend us to people in your social network that you think would enjoy our products?

Thanks in advance,


Remember, customize this as much as you can with information about the customer. Make sure the subject line is top quality too.

Revenue Engage makes automated sequences like these easy. With Salesforce to back things up, personalization is easy, and thanks to two-way sync, it’s possible to set up sequences that will be sent to customers that rate you highly.

Process the responses

The next stage won’t come as much of a surprise; it’s to launch the response process and use the feedback you receive. Don’t worry if the responses you receive are sometimes negative, remember to stay positive and learn from your mistakes. At this stage, you need to liaise with all concerned departments, customer success, and sales and integrate your referral responses.

With every new sales referral you’ll want to create a new cycle where you provide a good service, and then subsequently ask the new referral for recommendations too. The process is cyclical, so keep the new referrals engaged with email call to actions. Revenue Engage makes timing these types of sequences, testing performance, and tracking results simple and straightforward.

As the process of onboarding new sales referrals will involve close cooperation with various departments, you may want to create a joint training schedule. This will ensure the process is smooth if you involve all interested parties. In this case, how you get sales referrals is much the same as any other sales process, through training and practice.

Follow up and continue the cycle

With testing, adjustments, attention to detail, and a bit of good luck, a good referral process will create a virtuous cycle for your company. Satisfied and pleasantly surprised customers will recommend that others try your product, which will lead to more satisfied customers. Always follow up with every prospect, lead, and client, and always remember your pleases and thank yous. Courtesy really does go a long way.

Great sales communications is only one piece of the puzzle, though. Developing a strong referral system goes deeper than sales. It’s an interdepartmental journey that demands collaboration and a common goal between marketing, sales, customer support, and even the product team. Driving sales through referrals starts from the very core of your business model. Successfully building a business that customers love enough to share with others is a surefire path to growth and revenue.