Endless chain: an effective prospecting method | Sunday Observer

Endless chain: an effective prospecting method

25 April, 2021

The endless chain method, also known as sales referrals or referral selling is one of the most effective and successful methods in the prospecting element of the sales process. Regardless of the size of the business or the image of the products, salesmen use this method efficiently to increase the all-important prospect base.

The endless chain process begins when an existing customer provides the contact information of another prospect, usually an acquaintance, to a salesperson. The customary method is to ask for a referral after a sale is closed. However, my personal opinion is that a salesperson can ask for a referral any time during the selling process, after the approach stage.

Referral selling is simply asking current customers to refer your product or service to another company or an individual. The salesman leverages the trust built with the existing customer to obtain the information of the new prospect. In my first-hand experience, I can confidently state that sales referrals not only can be the top source for new hot leads but also it has a higher closing rate than leads generated by other prospecting methods.

Referral leads are considered to be better than other methods due to two key reasons. First and foremost, the customer is most likely to know others who run similar businesses, making the lead automatically pre-qualified. Secondly, the salesman is introduced to a new prospective buyer by a satisfied acquaintance, creating a benefit of trust at the beginning of the relationship.

Single lead

Asking for a referral from the customer immediately after the close of a sale is best. Your customer has made a buying decision based on the facts submitted by you. This means the customer trusts your presentation. He is most likely to give you even a single lead after the hot decision he has made. A significant portion of new customers will help you while a few others may say that they will use the product and provide referrals later. Either way, if it persists, most likely you will get referrals sooner or later.   

Referral sales are a warm outbound lead generation growth engine. I have persuaded thousands of salesmen during training sessions to pursue this method, and most of them have implemented the method with great success. In fact, there is no failure in this unless the customer is unhappy about something even after the sale.

The important point is that your prospect base will keep getting better day after day if you consciously try. Any professional salesman knows the common saying among the fraternity that emphasises ‘more prospects more sales’. The worst thing that can happen is that a customer may be reluctant to refer you to others for personal reasons. However, it takes conviction to keep trying for referrals even if customers say no at first. Just like everything else in selling, the salesperson needs emotional stability to face rejection or failure.


For reasons unknown, sometimes salesmen are reluctant or shy to ask for referrals from a customer. Most salespersons give up after the first attempt rather than pushing it a bit further. Most often, customers say that they will think of someone and revert later.

If the referral details are not taken then and there, just after the closure of the sale, trying on a later date may not be as effective. Perseverance, one of the most important traits of a professional salesman, should come into effect in these situations. In my experience, more than 50% of the customers will give referrals if the salesman attempts more than twice.

Emphatically thanking the customer who gave you a referral or referrals in writing can pave the way to obtain more leads. Hence, it is imperative to write an e-mail or even an SMS as early as possible, thanking them for the act. When the salesperson goes the extra mile, the customer not only is extra happy but also tends to give more referrals.   

Sales referrals are very effective because they help build trust between the salesman and the referred prospect. Research says that people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a known party. In the absence of a referral, the salesman is a stranger to the customer without a basis for trusting except the salesman himself.

Key element

The new prospect has more confidence when the salesperson appears in front of the customer with recommendations. In this instance, customers move into the purchase process much faster than any other method used to prospect. 

The strength of the relationship with the customer is a key element in getting a productive referral. Although the salesperson can ask for a referral from any stage of the sales process even at the first call, the effectiveness of the response is far better when the customer is emotionally connected. For customers who possess a good and understanding relationship with a salesman, his referrals can be strong and even the customer himself may communicate with the prospect, making it more effective.   

As discussed earlier, salespeople are often uncomfortable asking for referrals. A probable reason may be that they fear rejection, a common characteristic of even skilled salesmen. Depending on each sales situation, the salesman is permitted to ask for referrals, but it is best to engage the customer on referrals after a friendly conversation.

In practice, the best time to ask for a referral is after the customer has benefitted from your product or service, particularly, if you feel that he is happy about the purchase. At the end of a purchase, asking for a customer’s referral as help for the salesman is also effective. Personally, when I was a salesman long years back, I had been very successful in this timing belt and most of the time I have succeeded as my customers were happy to ‘help’ me.

Companies across the world practice referral marketing successfully to obtain new customers for their respective businesses. In this strategy, your customers become advocates to the business as they recommend your product or services to many others they know. In marketing strategy, referral marketing is one of the best to expand the customer base.

While the endless chain method predominantly is subjective to a salesperson who finds new prospects through direct customer engagement, referral marketing plays a broader strategic role in prospecting. As a marketing tactic, usually, the existing customer is offered an incentive to refer the business entity to an acquaintance, making it a win-win for both parties if the conversion takes place.


In Sri Lanka, Credit Card service providers use this strategy successfully. Referral marketing is identified as one of the most powerful and cost-effective sales strategies that can bring in large numbers of new customers to a company.

Businesses struggle to build up the trust of the customers despite the proliferation of the new media boom. Low-cost social media platforms are inundated with relentless appearance marketing messages. This noise produced through the media increases the competition tremendously confusing customers in buying decision making. According to Nielson, the American-British market measurement firm, the trust in marketing has dipped considerably during the past five years due to the relentless advertising.

Therefore, whether it is the endless chain method practiced by salesmen on the ground or referral marketing strategies done at the drawing board, referred customers always bring more value to your organisation with higher lifetime value than prospects generated by other methods.