Nowadays with so many advertisement out there and so many information available. Sometimes its hard for consumers to believe what companies say are true. Instead of hearing from the company they would prefer to hear it from their peers, from the people that they know, or from the people that have used the product.
Word of mouth is important, however it often works better in a B2C business model than in a B2B business model. For instance, you seldom see people share about how great their the ERP system is at their company on Facebook. You seldom see people share about the great hydraulic pump that they have brought at the company over friends gathering...Therefore, in a B2B business environment, you need to ask for the referrals. You need to be more proactive. You need to take the initiative and ask for the referrals to develop new leads.
Where should you go and ask for the referrals? Well, your customers! no doubt about it. However, there is one small issue about them, that is they are your CUSTOMERS. They may even be your important VIPs, and the last thing that you would like to to do is to make them unhappy. Yes, forget about the ones that dislike you and constantly shoots complaints at you, but even the ones that like you, why should they refer you to others? By referring you to other meant that they have to endorse you. What happens if you do a lousy job?
There are too many reasons for your customers not to referral you to others. If they refer you to others, does that mean you will have less time for them? Wouldn't it be in their best interest to keep you to themselves in this case? If they refer you to others, will they be referring you to their competitors. Why on earth would they do that? Why would they want their competitors to benefit from your good product or services?...At the end of the day there are just not enough reasons to justify their action to refer you to others.
Therefore, you need to create the reasons. You need to create the benefit that you clients would enjoy by referring you to others, and here is how you should go about and make it work for you and for them...
Most often your customer wouldn't have just one vendor. You are just one of the many vendors to them. For instance I was with a printing press manufacturer. Besides purchasing the the printing press from us, the client will purchase substances like ink, paper, film...from other vendors. Ask your client if these vendors are also doing a good job. If they are doing a good job, great. If they are doing a poor job, doesn't really matter either. The point is that you should tell you client that you would like to work with these vendors to help even serve them better. Therefore, no conflict of interest here. In this case the client is not endorsing you, the client is not introducing you to his competitors, even better you are trying to provide a better product and services to them by working with their vendors. There is no reason for the client to reject you in this case.
Once you obtain the referral from your clients, work with the vendors to better serve your common customers. For example as a press manufacturer we work with the ink suppliers to test run the print jobs for the customer. We work with the ink suppliers to come up with ink formulation that is desirable so the customer could take this formulation and start production immediately, saving the customers time and money.
Ask the vendors for customer referrals