Sales Step # 7 – Referrals…

Referrals are the life blood of professional services. Think about it — what do you do if you need a lawyer, doctor, accountant, or other professional? You get a referral!

So make this the last step of your sales process (along with your lead generation process.) What better time to request a referral than when you just finished a project?

Building a consulting practice is all about credibility and visibility. Referrals provide a very high level of credibility, especially when they come from a trusted source.

Many consultants ask for written testimonials from clients for their web sites.

When I recently switched from PCs to Macs, I found a consultant on an Apple directory web site. In addition to being vetted by Apple, several past clients had written brief testimonials.

I hired him and it worked out very well, and even wrote a testimonial (at his request) myself.

If your clients are not comfortable with this, ask if you can use them as a reference. We did this rather than written testimonials, as our consultations were often sensitive. It was also easier than getting something written, and nobody ever refused.

Always call first before giving out a name (and then only when someone asks for a reference.) You don’t want to abuse this courtesy.

Another option is to list past clients. Be sure to ask before doing so. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) often prohibit this. Although many consultants do this, we chose no to.

Rather, we compiled a list of projects. Most potential clients don’t care who you worked for — rather they want to know what problems you have worked on. Although anonymous, it still makes an effective referral. And many clients appreciate your being discrete.

 Don’t overlook referrals! The time you spend cultivating referrals can pay big dividends in future business from future clients.


This concludes the seven part series on selling consulting services. I hope this overview has helped. It is based on my 10 years in technical sales/marketing, and 30 years as an independent consultant. We could have covered more, but I wanted to keep it simple.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions. They are often fuel for future blog posts.

Finally, remember selling is a process — and critical if you are to succeed as a consultant. For without customers, you don’t have a business!

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