It's Who You Know: 9 Tips for Using Referrals for Sales Recruiting / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Who you know can be a big asset when hiring new sales staff. Can a strong referral program replace other forms of sales recruiting?

Recruiting sales talent is tricky business. By nature, sales people are good at spinning their story, and it’s hard to tell how well they are capable of performing until they’ve been on the payroll for a good length of time.

This is why referrals are such a good avenue for sales recruiting. When a person is endorsed by someone you know and trust, you can be much more confident in that person’s ability to succeed.

Here are nine useful tips for leveraging referrals to the greatest possible extent:

Related Article: Power to the People: How to Launch and Maintain a Referral Marketing Program

1. View Everyone in Your Network of Business, Family and Friends as a Source of Referrals

Too often, we separate business from personal—to our detriment. An outstanding sales referral can come from your next-door neighbor or dentist just as easily as from a board member, supplier or employee.

walking and talking

2.Encourage Everyone in Your Organization to Look for Referrals in Their Network

Employees won’t naturally think about referring someone without occasional (or more than occasional) reminders. Your next star sales rep may be helping your shipping foreman buy a new house. Will your shipping foreman recognize the opportunity?

3. Vary Encouragement a Step Further by Implementing an Incentive Program for Employees Who Make Successful Referrals

For example, new hires that stay on the payroll for at least one year.

Based on the theory people do what you pay them to do rather than what you tell them to do, incentive programs can be extremely effective—not only in capturing great referrals, but also in eliminating or cutting down on referrals that are probably a poor fit.

4. Lean on Your Suppliers and Business Services Providers for Referrals

Vendors, accountants, attorneys, etc., deal with lots of companies and may even specialize in your niche and related ones. These people may know, or know of, outstanding candidates who are actively looking for new jobs or could become interested if the right opportunity came along. Also, because these people are familiar with your business, they have insight about what type of candidate is an outstanding fit for you.

5. Communicate to All of Your Referral Sources Details About the Type of Individual Your Firm Is Looking For

This includes your employees, vendors, etc. Person “A’s” idea of a great sales rep may be completely different from Person “B’s.” If you leave the decision to personal preference, you’ll get referrals for the wrong type of person. This not only puts an unnecessary burden on your HR staff, it discourages your referral sources from trying again.

Related Article: 6 Small Business Perks That Will Recruit Big Talent

6. Communicate With Your Referral Sources on an Ongoing Basis

Let them know how the person they referred is progressing. Thank them from time to time for making the referral(s). Showing appreciation and continued interest earns you respect, and encourages referral sources to keep looking for great potential sales reps to send your way.

7. Use the Power of Social Media to Publicize Your Interest in Referrals and Extend Your Reach Into the Pool of Potential Referrers

If your company has established an engaged social media community, your connections may be eager to help you find sales candidates within their social networks—but only if they know you are looking for them.

social media for networking

8. Encourage Employees to Use Their Social Networks for the Same Purpose

In this effort, it is important to tread lightly. Since people use social networks for various reasons, some employees may be very resistant to or uncomfortable with using social media for business purposes.

Don’t push this idea aggressively; it will only cause alienation. However, employees that are comfortable using social media in this way may have access to hundreds or even thousands of potential candidate referrers.

9. Last but Certainly Not Least, Be Generous in Giving Referrals

First, by referring high-quality candidates to all of the people mentioned in this article, you will make them far more eager to return the favor.

Second, giving referrals strengthens your personal reputation and your company’s brand. When people speak well of you in the market, that in itself attracts top candidates to your door. 

Implementing even one or two of these suggestions should make a noticeable difference in your ability to identify and attract high-quality sales candidates. However, by implementing most or all of them, you will improve results even more dramatically. By simply having a lot of referral-oriented initiatives underway, you will increase focus on and enthusiasm for this very important recruiting technique.

Can a strong referral program replace other forms of sales recruiting?

Perhaps not from day one if your company is just putting an organized effort in place. Over time, however, referrals may deliver a higher success rate than any of your other recruiting techniques.

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