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Referral Selling: An Old Silver Bullet, Revitalized

Paul McCord\'s Book

Paul McCord

If you visit the best sales blog sites, you’ll no doubt stumble upon Paul McCord.  Paul has a lot to say about an old silver bullet—referral selling. 

I call referral selling “old” only because the practice of leveraging existing customer relationships has been around for decades.  In fact, not enough sales people build this potentially powerful lead generation strategy into their overall territory management approach.  (There are reasons for that.  Among them are unhappy, unreferenceable customers, fear and simply not knowing how to referral sell.)

I’ve been pretty tough on sales tips books and articles. With that in mind, referral selling skills (like presentation skills and typing skills) can be independent of any sales methodology. 

Paul’s book, Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income — Sales Success Through Client Referrals provides a comprehensive view of the subject.  His intent is to guide the reader into deploying a referral-based business model.  Although Paul’s background is in financial services, where referral selling is more widely used, his strategies and tactics can be applied across pretty much any industry. 

Paul’s PWWR (pronounced “power”) system is the key. Plant the seeds, Water them throughout the sale, Weed out any issues, and Reap the referrals.  This is Paul’s recommended process and it makes a lot of sense. Although I have not employed Paul’s PWWR process, I can envision it working very well in diverse situations.  He’s done a terrific job.

Here is my recommendation for sales leaders. (A full-fledged plan will contain considerably more detail—this is just a starting point….) 

  1. If your sales team hasn’t been effectively leveraging existing customers for referrals, determine why. 
  2. Benchmark the level at which referrals business is being converted to sales.
  3. If the reason is that (you and) your salespeople don’t know how, invest in this book.
  4. Take the time to study Paul’s referral process and his recommendations.
  5. Set an objective.  For example, referrals will be the source of 10% of our business next year.
  6. Devise a plan for adopting his process across your team.
  7. Build appropriate coursework, tools, coaching mechanisms.  (This is a difficult proposition for a busy sales manager.  You probably don’t have either the time or the skills. I’m sure Paul would be delighted to engage with you on this…)
  8. Train your team or get them trained.
  9. Deploy the process, measure results against your benchmark and objective and refine.
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