Adding customer referrals into your software sales strategy can be transformative for sales teams. According to recent survey data from Nielsen, 88% of global respondents trust recommendations from people they know more than any other channel.

We talked to leaders in the Powderkeg community who shared their experience building referral programs and actionable tips you can use to add referrals into your sales strategy.   

Help Your Customers Build Successful Businesses

What we’ve discovered from interviewing every customer for whom we’ve completed an engagement and every prospect that we failed to convert is that our #1 source of opportunities is referrals. We are intentional about 1:1 conversations to ask what worked, how we could improve and how we could include them in spotlight pieces like testimonials and use cases to build brand awareness for them. We go beyond helping our customers build successful products to helping them build successful businesses.

Logan Pund, VP Growth & Finance at The Engineered Innovation Group

Motivate Clients With Referral Incentives

Sales referrals are vital to our strategy, leveraging trust from existing relationships. We incentivize current clients to refer our services, understanding that recommendations from satisfied customers carry weight. By integrating a referral program, we motivate clients to be brand ambassadors and acquire leads with a trust baseline, thus shortening the sales cycle and boosting conversions.

Emily Finkelstein, CEO at VentureXpert Advisors

Set the Expectation That You Will Ask for Referrals

Be intentional, and set an expectation early on with customers. As you close a deal, let your customer know that you depend on referrals to build your business, and that you’ll be in touch with them on this topic. Then, once your post-sale team confirms they are up and running and receiving value, you can reach out to strike up the referral conversation. Because you’ve already set the expectation, the referral process becomes a more natural motion for everyone.

Joseph Loria, Founder at RetentionworCX

Keep Your Customers Happy

Leveraging sales referrals is invaluable. Happy clients make strong recommendations, building trust, shortening sales cycles, and nurturing lasting relationships. Referrals tap into trust and credibility, yielding high-quality leads. Continuous engagement shows our commitment to clients beyond the initial sale.

Jeff Biberdorf, Director of Sales & Marketing at Fontus Blue

Express Thanks to Encourage Referrals

Referrals are a cornerstone of my sales strategy, and I’ve found that being genuinely appreciative goes a long way. After receiving a referral, I make it a priority to express my gratitude promptly. I send a personalized thank-you note or gift to the referrer to show my appreciation. This not only reinforces the relationship but also encourages more referrals in the future.

Phil Strazzulla, Founder, SelectSoftware Reviews

Train Teams in Referral-Seeking Skills

Train your sales team to actively seek referrals during the sales process. Oftentimes, companies view referrals as chance opportunities to be seized as they arise, when in reality, you can stimulate referrals much more than you think. A serious course on referral-seeking will help your sales staff identify opportunities and follow through on them for added benefit. These are skills to learn, and when you understand how to build said skill sets, you’ll see your team truly thrive.

Michael Power, CMO, DTF Transfers

Automate the Referral Process

Automate the referral process as much as you can. If the referrer has to go through a multi-step process just to get you a sale, they’ll abandon the idea quickly. Be clear about your expectations, compensation, and other preferences. Building a real referral pipeline means getting as much done as possible without manual oversight.

Mark Varnas, Principal SQL Server DBA and Consultant, Red9

Capitalize on Customer Appreciation

One of the best things about sales referrals is that they provide our brand with a way to show new customers that existing customers want others to try our product. There aren’t many techniques that are better than showing examples of real customers who want others to use your product—it shows a more “real” side of your brand and creates rapport.

Part of our strategy for asking for referrals involves timing. We score leads and assess the customer journey in order to determine when the perfect time is to ask for a referral from each customer. When they’ve just shown some sort of appreciation for your product, that’s the perfect time. It means they might be more willing to provide a referral during that time, and you’ll possibly get a great review to use on your site too.

Lauren Carlstrom, COO, Oxygen Plus

Proactively Target Referral Partners

Referrals are the best kind of marketing. This is no surprise to any business in B2B sales. We try to be proactive about identifying strong referral partners. The best types are those that consult and work with a large variety of customers in our target markets. Third-party consultants, founders engaged in thought leadership, and buyers that have engaged in a number of recent work transitions are all targets for us to prompt and reward for referrals.

Trevor Ewen, COO, QBench

Ready to explore some of the fastest-growing tech startups? Look for companies in hot industries with room to grow. Take the time to research each company by reviewing their website, product reviews, and online profiles.

If you are interested in exploring sales career opportunities in the Powderkeg community, check out our collection of best companies for sales jobs.

You can browse all of Powderkeg’s Best Tech Companies to Work for, follow them for insights, or request an introduction to plug into your next big opportunity.