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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Brady Irvine

Brady Irvine Marketing Guy

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Referral-Palooza: Are you a Panhandler or a Professional?

“Hey listen, my business is built on referrals so if you ever know anyone who might ever drive a car…”

-Weak-assed salesperson


Is this little “script” a part of your sales or delivery process?  C’mon, be honest… 

To be fair, “weak-assed” might be a little harsh, but saying something like that is the referral getting equivalent of “if you ever need anything feel free to call me…”  It’s putting the ball in the other person’s court so you feel like you’ve done something and haven’t risked rejection.

Why do we do this?

It’s because we are looking at referrals the wrong way.

Think about it, do you see someone sending you a referral as them doing a favor for you? 

If so, it would explain why someone would be a little weak or embarrassed about asking for a referral wouldn’t it?

But let me ask you this, have you ever recommended a book or a movie to a friend? 


Because the author or director begged you to?

Of course not, it’s because you had an enjoyable experience, and you wanted to share it with a friend.  Also, it makes you feel great when they enjoy it too right?  (As silly as it sounds it kinda makes you feel important or like they owe you…)

The same principle applies to referring someone to you or your dealership.  Johnny Customer hears someone complaining about their vehicle, or their crappy experience trying to look at a vehicle, and mentions they should go see you.  Did Johnny do that because you begged him to or to gain the boost in social standing that comes from being an influencer?

I’ll bet the social standing is even more important than the money or gift cards or whatever you use to reward referrals.  Everyone would like to be “that” friend who can get you into the best restaurant or sold out concert or whatever right?

So how can we take advantage of this?

Well obviously you should do everything you can to make yourself (and your dealership) more referable.  Look at the customer experience and do everything you can to exceed their expectations.  That could be a whole book in itself so we’ll just leave it at that.

Just as importantly, you should change your attitude about the referral from that of panhandler to professional. 

How would you feel if your doctor came to you and meekly said “My business is built on referrals so if you could give me the names and contact information for 5 people you know who could use any kind of surgery it would really mean a lot to me…”  How would that make you feel?  What if the same doctor came up to you and said “Thank you for being such a great patient.  Normally I’m too busy to take new patients, but if you have a friend or family member that you think should see me, just have them mention your name when they call and I will make sure they get looked after.

Now I am not suggesting you should pretend that you only take referrals if you are out on the lot pouncing on every up that walks by, but do you see the difference in the two scenarios?  On one hand you are doing the doctor a favor, on the other, the doctor is allowing you to look like a big shot.  Can you think of any ways someone in our industry could position themselves in a way to do this as well?

Chris Costner
Great points Brady. Big difference between the two approaches. Giving the customer more than they expected during the initial sale will certainly help in many aspects down the road. How many salespeople today honestly run a solid follow up system and make the effort to build their referral business? I have seen many go through the motions to make themselves feel good and I also those really making it happen. The results are night and day.
Brady Irvine
Thanks Chris, you are 100% correct. Hopefully this small mindset shift will get some people some more business... It's like asking someone out on a date, if you think of it as them doing you a favor you aren't going to have much success.
Charles Gallaer
Great post, and even better analogy regarding dating.
Brady Irvine
Thanks Charles, I think most aspects of selling cars can be related to dating examples. (Although in dating your repeat "customers" are less likely to send you referrals...)
Bryan Armstrong
Brady- you are on the money here. while its true "A closed mouth won't get fed" there is a huge difference in the way to properly ask...and of course first you must have earned the right! Don't beg or guilt your customers to a desired course of action. It demeans you both. Most importantly, dont emphasize PRICE as the reason they should do so, but rather provide the Service experience they want to share.

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