THE quality of your referrals is more important than the quantity. Where possible, sales professionals should identify the demographic of the referrals they want referred to them.

A simple guide would be to apply the affordability, approachability and applicability factors. These criteria should be at the top of any sales professional’s mind when determining whether a referral is of the desired quality.


At the top of the list should be the referral’s buying power.

If someone refers you to a person who is keen but cannot afford to engage your service or buy your product, there is no clear indication of potential sales.

Of course, there is no harm in keeping this referral in the loop until he is ready and able to make a purchase. After all, it is unwise to refuse a referral from anyone.

If you are not selling to individuals, but to companies, determining a quality referral is especially important.

Usually, departments within a company have separate budgets, therefore your referral must be one who can make or at least influence the decision.

If your point of contact is not capable of either, then he is not the referral that you are looking for.

However, that does not mean you should just forgo this referral. Bear in mind that he may be sharing the same office with the individual who can make those decisions.

If you are unsure of the referral’s affordability profile, simply keep him in your database for future reference.


Some of the referrals given to you may not be approachable at all.

Even though someone has recommended you, they will still treat you like any other salesman. It might be because these referrals prefer to give their business to people they already know and trust.

Most of the time, if your client is willing to link you up with a referral, the latter is usually nice enough to hear you out. Even if he does reject your business proposal, he will do it politely.

If that happens, do not be too quick to discard the referral. It could be that he does not need to make a purchase yet. When the opportunity surfaces, make sure that you are ready to take advantage of it. 


It seems obvious that your referrals must have a use for your product or service.

If the applicability factor is not in place, you can try and convince your referral to make a purchase, but nothing will come out of it.

If you think your solution may apply to him, but he is not aware of it, you will need to convince him otherwise.

Once in a while, you might come across a referral who has no use for your product but will still buy it from you, because he wants to support you. While this is great for you, the downside is that he is unlikely to refer you to other people.

Your time is limited, so it makes good business sense to pursue the referrals who best meet the “triple A” criteria of affordability, approachability and applicability.

Article by Jacky Chua, the author of “SOLD: Everything You Need to Know About Selling Anything”. Currently with Richard Gavriel Speaker Management, he can be contacted via e-mail at