The power of a person’s personality and knowledge, whether they use it face to face with prospects or over the phone, can dramatically increase an organization’s sales. This is especially true when it comes to generating leads through referrals. Unfortunately, too many of us overlook referrals that are right in front of us. These are the referrals we can get via word-of-mouth and social media that we can use to make sales.

Referrals are the coveted treasure of any company and the most cost-effective way to acquire new customers. Once we fully realize this, it’s up to us to develop and implement proactive systems involving both processes and people to generate and greatly increase the amount of leads flowing into our sales pipelines.

As I like to say to anyone who will listen to me about converting referrals into sales: “The Internet is the trap, and the phone is the kill shot.” In other words, all of us should be seeking referrals through our social media sites. But these referrals, just like the referrals we get in other ways, aren’t worth anything unless we follow up in person or, more commonly, by telephone and ask for sales.

By asking for referrals, I mean asking friends, family and existing clients if they know of anyone needing the services you and your company offer.

I was recently reminded of this when my business coach called me to check in and get an update on the progress I had made with the strategies he helped us implement in our company a few months ago. At the end of our phone conversation, he casually asked if there was anyone I knew – business colleagues or friends – who might need and appreciate his business coaching and consulting services.

Of course, with a bit of thought, I could have shared the names of many fellow entrepreneurs and business owners who might appreciate and benefit from his services. But since I hadn’t expected his bold question, I wasn’t able to share any names with him. The fact that he asked me for referrals stuck with me, and it compelled me to review my mental Rolodex to think of some leads to share with him.

By proactively seeking referrals and then promptly following up with phone calls, we greatly increase our chances of finding prospects that may very well appreciate what we can do for them. We are sending a message to these prospects that we are open for business and confident in the professionalism and quality or our services.

Let’s not be shy about asking for referrals. Even though customers might not respond right away, eventually many happy customers will share the names of family members, friends or neighbors. When we ask again they will be prepared.

You might also consider offering a financial incentive such as a credit toward future services. That’s another good way to incentivize happy customers to share names.

1. Point of sale: After completing your sales presentation (on the phone or in person) ask your new client for referrals. At first, you might think this approach makes you look too brazen or entitled. However I believe it sends a message that you are confident in the quality of service you provide.

2. Positive survey reviews: Assuming your company sends out reviews, I recommend calling back the ones that are positive and thanking them. Next, casually ask them if they know anyone else that might benefit from your services.

3. Customer service: After one of your team members wraps up a phone call with exemplary customer service, this is an ideal time to capitalize on the feel-good mood of your customers by asking them for a referral.

4. Outbound marketing: Another great time to ask for referrals is when you are marketing to cross-sell your customers – whether by email or in printed mailers/invoices.

5. Social media: Make sure you are reaching out to your customers via social media and asking them if they know of anyone who might be interested in your services. This method can also make your referral rewards go viral.

Many business owners seem to think they do not need to ask for referrals. They say the quality of their work will generate referrals on its own. Well, maybe it does, but how many? A better way to keep the referrals coming is to ask for them.