When you deliver exceptional service to your customers, many become willing to recommend you to peers in their network. However, some salespeople never take full advantage of the opportunity.

If your referrals never budge from the top of the funnel or die on the vine, it may be because of a less-than-stellar plan to build a valuable connection and guide them seamlessly through the sales process. After all, referrals have a unique decision making journey compared to regular, independently acquired leads.

Here is your step-by-step blueprint to amplify the success of customer referrals, and see them turn into happy, long-term clients.

First, acknowledge your success

Many sales organizations do not prioritize referrals. Either they do not have a plan for asking for them, or they do not provide the level of support needed to build raving fans who feel comfortable referring others. So, when you do manage to earn a customer’s trust enough to receive a referral, congratulate yourself on this achievement.

Now, let’s get to work on the rest of the blueprint. Before you grab the phone to talk to the referral, answer some internal questions about how you do business.

Identify what has worked in the past

Before you contact a single referral, explore why your customers thrive thanks to your product or service.

Why do they love you? Why do they continue to do business with you? What do you give them they can’t get from your competitors?

Don’t just guess. Send out customer surveys, and consistently talk with your seasoned clients so you understand your company’s core strengths and value propositions.

Pinpoint your ideal client’s key characteristics

It is difficult to not want every potential lead to turn into a client, but sometimes, it is not meant to be. Avoid trying to fit a square peg in a round hole by painting a complete picture of what your targeted client looks like, from the size of business to the type of industry, to what they look for in a vendor. Knowing your buyer puts you miles ahead of whether or not a referral is worth expending a bunch of effort.

Connect in a timely, respectful manner

It is vital to treat each referral as you would the client who led you to them. Email them promptly, or ask your client to offer up an introduction. Either way, remember to speak about the person who referred them in glowing terms, and continue to build on your mutual connection throughout the sales cycle.

Explain how your company can fill a need

“Ok, so you know, Joe. So what?”

The connection only goes so far if you are unable to show your prospect why she should part with her hard-earned money. Lay out how your product or service helped Joe’s business grow, and how it can help your buyer either solve a pain point or save time or money. By showing your potential customer you understand their business and needs, you can begin building a relationship independent of the referrer.

Bring other team members into the fold

Once you have established a connection with the referred lead, ask members of the support team, or other team members, to connect with him or her. If the lead agrees to a demo, take them with you to lay out their part in client onboarding and service. Remember, your prospect will be working with several of your colleagues once he completes the purchase and turns into an account. Make your buyer feel comfortable by introducing him to the future members of his account team.

Demonstrate your competitive advantage

Chances are that your buyer already works with a vendor that supplies the same basic product or service you offer. Why should they switch to you? There are a variety of ways you can prove you are the best choice, from sharing helpful content, to being responsive, to approaching them in a consultative manner rather than being a pushy salesperson. This step takes advanced planning and a strategic focus. Gather proof of your superior service, easier shipping options or more robust technology offerings, and drive those home in documented pieces of information. Periodically throw in how much the person who referred them likes particular features, and how it makes a meaningful impact on their business.

Building and managing a successful customer referral program is one of the strongest ways to increase your sales funnel, open accounts and build revenue for your business. Receiving referrals is just one small, beginning piece of the puzzle. You must have a plan in place to treat referrals differently and move them through the sales cycle in a distinctly focused manner. This blueprint is essential toward making your referral program a rousing success, and adding more money in your pocket.