5 Ways Sales Pros Can Fill the Lead Pipeline With Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of a healthy lead pipeline. Here are five ideas for keeping them pumping.

October 23, 2017

  • sales-leads

Today, buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a sales professional when introduced through a mutual connection. It’s one of the core principles that makes social selling so effective. It’s also what makes LinkedIn the perfect platform for making the most of referrals. Here are five ideas for collecting and acting upon referrals through LinkedIn.

1. Identify Warm Path Connections

The best way to start the referral process is by combing through your existing network. Take advantage of the TeamLink function in Sales Navigator to see who else in your company – whether another sales colleague, executive, or anyone else using Sales Navigator – is connected to a prospect.

Augment your internal search by going through your LinkedIn network to find those who can connect you with the prospects. Start with your strongest network connections, and from there, focus on the ones who are actively engaging with their networks and adding new connections.

Once you come across a match, explain why you want to connect with the prospect and ask for a warm introduction. Personal introductions are up to 500 percent more successful than an unsolicited approach, according to our research.

2. Ask for the Referral

Referrals from customers, partners, and even colleagues speak volumes about the value of doing business with you. Referrals and testimonials convey your value far better than anything you can tell a prospective buyer.

Actively request referrals by investing time into engaging with trusted customers, partners, and team members. At the very least, you’ll be cultivating your existing relationships, and you might be surprised to see just how quickly these types of relationship-building activities can expand your network of prospects.

3. Find New Paths to Introductions

Top sales reps are always looking to duplicate their success to date. That’s why they figure out the profiles of their best customers and go after more of the same. To find lookalikes, review your existing connections and groups to find “centers of influence” where similar decision-makers come together. This works particularly well for sectors where even entry-level roles are fairly elevated (think wealth management or industry technology) because you won’t be asking your existing connections to introduce you to someone beyond their reach.

You can also build up greater influence in an organization by taking a multi-threaded approach and expanding beyond your single connection there. When you access leads via Sales Navigator, the top of their profile will also list “Lead Recommendations,” other individuals in the organization who may also be worth approaching.

Whether you identify potential buyers through centers of influence or through Sales Navigator, tap your network for introductions.

4. Make the Most of Introductions

The way you request and handle a referral can make a big difference in your success rate.

If you are asking a colleague, a straightforward message works best. Point out that you noticed a connection of interest, ask how well your colleague knows that person and if she’d be willing to make the introduction. If your colleague is happy to introduce you, send back a message that she can use to reach out. In other words, make it easy for her to make the introduction. Here’s an example, where you are Alex, Miriam is your colleague, and Miriam’s connection is Sam.

Sam and Alex, I wanted to introduce the two of you.

Alex, Sam and I go way back. Sam, Alex is a top-notch consultant who has helped many businesses similar to yours do great things. I think it would be well worth your while to discuss any upcoming projects. 

I’ll let you two take it from here.



Take a similar approach when requesting an introduction from a customer or partner. Do the work of finding the mutual connection, be respectful of the person’s time and their existing connection, and make it clear you will take care of the heavy lifting, so to speak. Here’s the type of personalized email you can pass along to a customer or partner for making an introduction on your behalf.

Hi Sam,

I hope all is well!

I’d like to introduce you to Alex of Top-Notch Consulting. They knocked it out of the park when we engaged them to get things running more smoothly in our company. I think you could benefit from their services, but I’m sure a discussion with Alex will help you figure that out.

All the best,


Once you have received an introduction, follow up promptly. Shoot for warm, personalized outreach that clearly explains why you’re getting in touch and what value you might offer to the prospective buyer. Highlight any other common ground when possible (such as a shared interest you noticed on LinkedIn), but don’t go too far astray. Make your message friendly, brief, and direct by closing with a request to talk.

5. Know When a Recommendation is Best

If one of your top customers happens to be connected to many promising prospects, it may be best to ask that customer for one recommendation rather than multiple referrals. Post that recommendation on your LinkedIn profile and then reach out to start conversations with new prospects. Include a link to the recommendation when you explain in your message that you share a mutual connection who loves you, your company, and your solution.

There’s no need to feel uncomfortable asking for introductions and referrals – it’s part of doing business and succeeding in sales. Continually cultivate relationships with your network, offer to assist whenever possible, and you’ll find it quite easy to develop an effective referral strategy.

For more social-selling strategies that fill the lead pipeline, download the LinkedIn Selling Tactical Plan.