Great relationships are the key to not only acquiring but also retaining referral source loyalty. While this is a well-known fact, many times those same great relationships never transition into referring accounts. As a sales manager, you are faced with a difficult dilemma. Do you wait it out in hopes that the relationship will someday turn into referrals, or do you give another sales rep an opportunity to work the account? How do you decide?
Consider applying the following steps to evaluate the effectiveness of your sales rep and the relationships they have cultivated.
Step 1: Observe the relationship
When it becomes clear that a sales rep is unable to convert high-value accounts into referring accounts, the first thing you want to do is observe the dynamics of the relationship they are trying to convert first-hand. In many cases, you will identify a problem early on. Perhaps the relationship isn’t as strong as they may think or they don’t understand that they are trying to obtain referrals from someone other than the decision-maker. When you uncover an issue like that, it’s easily corrected and they will still have a chance to win referrals from that account. On the other hand, it should raise a red flag if you get the sense that the referral source doesn’t actually have a strong relationship with your sales rep.
Step 2: Consider the sales rep’s product & service knowledge
Nobody likes having his or her time wasted. If your rep doesn’t know how to explain what you do, what an ideal client or patient looks like, and how you can benefit the referral source, then your rep is at high risk of becoming more of an annoyance than a viable care partner. It’s easy to ride along to see this in practice, but a more pragmatic solution might be to simply ask them to tell you how your services work using role-playing techniques. Set up a short dialog, asking them questions that a referral source will ask. This will let you know if they need further education or training on how to best communicate your company’s value and capabilities.
Step 3: Ask for the business
Some sales reps find asking for business a challenging proposition. Even if this is difficult, they have to not only overcome it, but also become confident at asking for referrals. If they have good relationships and can clearly articulate what you do, then it stands to reason that they are most likely positioning themselves to receive those referrals. You need to make a rule that they ask for a referral every time they visit an account.
Explore the possibility that your reps are not asking for referrals in a way that is compelling to their referral sources. Perhaps additional education is required to demonstrate how your services can be a huge benefit to their patients. Instead of simply asking for a patient or referral, make sure they are incorporating a benefit statement to support the request. An example based on medication management might be, “You and I both know that many of your senior patients face challenges with their medications. Will you give us a chance to help make that situation more manageable while providing you a comprehensive reconciliation of those medications?” When you position your request with a benefit for both them and to their patient, it increases the chance that they will be open to using your services.
As a sales manager, you have a responsibility to ensure that your sales reps have all of the training and support they need to be successful. You also have to hold those same reps accountable when their numbers are not where they need to be. Taking the time to evaluate your high-value relationships will provide insight into how to best prepare your team members for success. In most cases, a great relationship, combined with knowledge about your services and the tenacity to ask for business, will convert into referrals.