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Referrals: Just do it already…

Posted by Paula Fifield on 4th August 2020

Stick me in front of a laptop with a customer relationship management (CRM) platform and I’ll happily sit behind a screen and generate leads via email and LinkedIn all day long.

As a salesperson with an introverted nature, selling services digitally in this way gives me the confidence to show my personality without being under immediate scrutiny. If people don’t like or are uninterested in my approach, they can simply ignore my attempt to reach them.

F2F sales may be a thing of the past

COVID-19 has put paid to the days of ‘stand-hopping’ at major tech trade shows — although I’d argue that the trend was dying out anyway (Rory Sutherland has some interesting thoughts on the future or F2F sales…).

It’s a fair cop that brands pay for trade show space to sell their wares, not to be ‘sold to’. I’ve certainly had my fair share of stand police politely (and some not so politely!) request that I ‘do-one’, which is never the most comfortable in-person experience!

Generating new business for most industries is hard right now and with face-to-face selling being mainly off the agenda, I’d recommend finding new ways to challenge yourself when it comes to revenue generation rather than relying on the stuff you’re already good at.

So, what now?

For Wildfire, I’ve been liaising with my client services colleagues to take a look at how we can ramp up our referral business, instead of relying solely on ‘new’ new business, which has traditionally been my focus. After all, referrals have a much lower cost of acquisition and much higher conversion rates. What’s not to love!

The first thing we’ve done is analyse our sources of referrals for the last two years. It appears we’re strong when it comes to partner referrals (no surprise there, given we’re a member of the PROI — a network of 80 agencies across 50 countries), and also referrals from clients, ex-clients and ex-staff members. Testament to the agency doing great work and being a fab place to work, naturally.

Getting prickly

Having attended a recent webinar on the subject of referrals delivered by, it was suggested that there are 13 main sources of ‘referred new business’. It seems that Wildfire has nailed three of these (clients and ex-clients are banded together), that gives us 10 more sources to build plans for.

For introverted sales reps, or for non-salespeople, asking for a referral can feel a bit like stepping onto that tradeshow stand… you’re not quite sure of the reception you’re going to get and that can be a bit daunting. It even made me wonder whether ‘referrals-as-a-service’ could be a new offering from Wildfire, alongside case studies and testimonials!

As Nike would say, ‘Just Do It’

Yes, asking for referrals needs to be considered and planned in advance, but make the move and just do it. I’d recommend coordinating your efforts between your sales, marketing and customer experience/client services folks, but providing the approach is agreed internally, there is nothing to be afraid of.

The worst that can happen is that a contact you approach for a referral turns you down, but at least they’ll know you’re ambitious, you’re actively looking to grow, that you trust them and that you value their network.  Sounds like a win-win to me!

Paula Fifield

Paula began working with the agency in 2007 as Business Development Director and was appointed as a board director in 2011. Prior to Wildfire, Paula worked at Sun Microsystems, Orange and Morse Group in a range of marketing, customer relationship management and business development roles.