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7 ways to make your referral program a success

Written by: William Johnson, Division Vice President, Sales and Channel
(View Author Bio)

The biggest challenge when launching a new sales lead-referral program is getting your customer-facing teams on board. If you can successfully motivate most of them to participate, you’re guaranteed to have an increase in revenue.

We worked with a major telecommunications company to launch a lead-referral incentive program and successfully inspired over 80% of their customer-facing technicians to participate. The program encouraged participants to identify up-sell and cross-sell opportunities when doing an in-home repair. They would then simply ask the customer if a sales representative could call them later to discuss additional products or services. As a result, they generated close to $70 million in incremental revenue for the organization.

Referral programs like this can add quite an impressive number to a company’s bottom line. If you’re considering starting a sales referral lead generation program, here are seven things to consider.



Include target participants in the planning process

You will likely be asking both sales and non-sales employees to take on additional tasks. Including key influencers in the planning process will help them feel a sense of ownership and provide you with real “feet-on-the-street” information.


Communicate why the program is important

Spend time explaining to participants that additional revenue helps build job security, allows the company to expand and grow and creates opportunities for long-term career success.


Offer meaningful and appropriate incentives

The increase in sales will be incremental, so you have tremendous leeway to share the gain. Participants will be more willing to participate if they see you are being extremely fair to the point of generosity for their extra efforts.


Publicly recognize both effort and achievement

Not every referral will result in a sale which can be discouraging for participants. Make sure you recognize and thank participants for their effort, regardless of the end result. Recognizing progress will keep participants engaged.


Sustain participation with intermittent promotions and contests

Keep the program fresh and interesting by offering the opportunity to earn more awards during key selling seasons, for new products, during slow times or for other situations in your business. Mix it up!


Actively communicate on an ongoing basis

Provide information, updates and reminders about the program using a variety of media. Make content relevant, providing information on how to make referrals more successful.


Analyze and share results

You’ll gain valuable data during the program. Study it to see where improvements can be made and where successes can be repeated. Share the data with participants so they can provide additional insight and see how they are contributing on a company-wide basis.


A sales lead referral program will not only boost your revenue but will likely improve your employee engagement and customer satisfaction scores as well. When building your next program, keep these seven key factors in mind. Don’t underestimate the power of your people to help your business grow.


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William Johnson

William Johnson

Division Vice President
Sales and Channel

As Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Sales & Channel Engagement Group, William Johnson's primary focus is to develop sales and channel engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of sales people, distributors, dealers and channel sales representatives. An expert in sales incentive strategy, he educates sales professionals around the world on how to best engage their sales force through sales engagement strategies, solutions and best practices.