How to Launch an Employee Referral Program Step-By-Step

There’s a ton of data out there that shows, when implemented correctly, employee referral programs can have a massive impact. 

45% of salespeople that are referred from internal employees, for example, stay for over four years. By comparison, only 25% sourced from job boards hang around for 2+ years. Employee referrals also save companies over $7,500 per hire. And a whopping 82% of employers rate “employee referrals above all other sources for generating the best ROI.”

The numbers speak for themselves. 

If you’re wondering how exactly you go about launching an employee referral program, I’m going to break it down step-by-step in this post. Here’s a full overview of the nuts and bolts of the process. 

Step 1: Identify Which Positions You Want to Hire For

First, determine which specific positions you want to accept referrals for. You may, for example, strictly be looking to bring on sales reps but aren’t interested in sales managers because you need someone with a highly specific skill set for the latter and want to handle the recruiting yourself.

I suggest going through every single one of your company’s positions and making note of the ones you’re open to filling through an employee referral program. 

Step 2: Pinpoint the Types of Candidates You’re Looking For

Just like with any other method of hiring, it’s essential to know precisely what makes for a great candidate. After all, it doesn’t do you any good if your existing employees are leveraging their networks only to bring in ill-suited candidates. 

Here’s what I suggest doing to ensure employees send rockstar talent your way:

  • Create candidate personas, including hard skills, soft skills, experience, education, and so on
  • Identify what you’re looking for in terms of a cultural fit
  • Determine what core values a candidate should possess

Once you have that fleshed out, create a resource to serve as a point of reference when internal employees are considering who to reach out to. 

Step 3: Decide if You Want to Offer Rewards for Referrals

A study by LinkedIn found that most employees don’t have monetary gain in mind when providing referrals. 

Only a tiny 6% do it for money. That said, having some type of reward or perk in place is definitely something to consider, as it can give your employees further incentive to find the right candidates. 

Research from TalentLyft found the vast majority of companies offer cash incentives, typically between $1,000 – $5,000, and 15% offer days off or vacation days. 

A few other ideas they suggest include:

  • Tickets for local events
  • Tickets for a trip
  • Food and drink

Step 4: Choose an Employee Referral Software

You certainly don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to launch a successful employee referral program. In fact, I suggest keeping it as simple as possible. 

But there are some amazing software platforms available that can streamline the process dramatically, while simplifying things for HR, your employees that provide referrals, and for the referrals themselves. 

Here are some specific features that can be a huge help:

  • Automatic job alerts
  • Links employees can conveniently share with potential candidates through email, text, and social media with information on the sales position
  • Fully customized applications for candidates to fill out, complete with unique branding elements
  • Built-in referral tracking to ensure the right employee gets credit

In terms of specific platforms, Workable is easy to use and one I personally recommend. 

Or, if you want an exhaustive list of the top employee referral software, this guide from G2 is super helpful. 

Step 5: Create an Employee Referral Policy

Once you’ve figured out what positions you’re willing to accept referrals for, what you’re looking for in candidates, determined whether or not you want to offer rewards, and chosen a software platform, it’s time to create a formal employee referral policy. 

The purpose of this is to let your employees know the following:

  • Which positions are available
  • What skills, traits, etc., you’re looking for in an ideal candidate
  • What the incentives are
  • How to submit referrals
  • Specific instructions to follow 

Here’s a sample template from Fit Small Business to point you in the right direction. 

Step 6: Write Job Descriptions

It’s also important that you have job descriptions ready to roll whenever candidates are generated through referrals. This should be approached just as it would with any other form of recruiting. The purpose here is to concisely articulate:

  • The core tasks an employee will be responsible for
  • Necessary skills and experience
  • Expectations

I suggest reading this guide from Zendesk for detailed instructions on how to write A+ job descriptions. 

Step 7: Get the Word Out

Finally, you need to promote your employee referral program and get everyone up to speed. I find the best way to go about this involves a two-step approach:

  1. Formally announce the launch during a meeting
  2. Send out a company-wide email that includes key information, such as program outlines and the employee referral policy

It’s also smart to provide your employees with quick links that enable them to share through email, social media, and text like I mentioned earlier. That way they can conveniently network and generate a steady stream of referrals without having to do any heavy lifting. 

Making Referrals an Integral Part of Your Recruiting

If you’re looking to save money on recruiting, increase your retention rate, and create a tighter, more connected sales team, launching an employee referral program is definitely something to consider. The vast majority of companies that implement one see a fantastic ROI, and it can really help you strengthen your culture over time. 

Following the seven steps outlined here should provide you with the basic framework for turning an employee referral program from an idea in your head into a reality.

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High-Performing SaaS Sales Teams Are 2.3x More Likely to Use This Technique

A term you’ll hear me use a lot on this blog is trusted advisor. In our modern era, leads no longer respond to high-pressure sales tactics where reps aggressively push products on them. 

It’s just not something most people will put up with. Rather, they respond positively when a rep assumes the role of trusted advisor, with 88% of leads saying they’re “only willing to buy” under this condition. 

And this brings me to the focus of this post. High-performing SaaS sales teams use one particular technique above all others to be seen as a trust advisor — guided selling.

Two Eye-Popping Stats

In her post 26 Sales Statistics That Prove Selling is Changing, Tiffany Bova of Salesforce drops two stats that I found incredibly interesting. 

First, “high-performing sales teams are 2.3x more likely than underperforming teams to use guided selling.” And second, “over the next three years, sales teams at all performance levels anticipate that guided selling and coaching capabilities will grow by 98%.”

Mic drop. 

The numbers speak for themselves here, and this data clearly shows the correlation between guided selling and sales teams performing at an elite level. Those that use this potent strategy outperform their non-guided selling counterparts by a wide margin. And all sales teams, regardless of performance level, expect guided selling to grow by a staggering 98% over the next three years. 

Keep in mind Bova wrote this post in January 2019, so the end of the three year span she mentioned will be in early 2022.

The bottom line is:

  • Using guide selling has been proven to get massive results
  • Most top sales teams currently use it, while most under-performers do not
  • The implementation of guided selling is growing like crazy

What Exactly is Guided Selling?

While you probably have a general idea of what guided selling is, it’s a technique that can be a little murky to some. Just so we’re totally clear, allow me to explain exactly what it is within a SaaS context.  

Simply put, guided selling is a process that helps SaaS leads find the optimal software product based on their specific needs. 

“In today’s completely saturated markets full of similar and competing products, combined with the mass amount of information freely available, buyers are easily and quickly overwhelmed with data,” explains revenue acceleration platform ringDNA. “This huge amount of information, which can be both honest and dishonest, may lead a buyer down a path towards a product that is not the best for them.”

And that’s where guided selling comes in. 

It “connects the buyer with a genuine consultant that delivers to them the products and services that are the best possible fit for their needs.”

Rather than sales reps offering SaaS products based on what they merely speculate the lead needs and using obnoxiously aggressive tactics, they take a consultative approach and work alongside the buyer to guide them to the right product that’s the best fit for their company. In other words, it’s about closely examining the buyer’s situation to help match them with the right SaaS product instead of just going for the “fast sale.”

The Essentials of Guided Selling

The practice of guided selling has evolved a lot over the years. This graphic from digital transformation brand Brillio provides a brief overview of how it’s gone from the pre-sales tool era where reps based their selling on the personal understanding of customers, to using basic sales tools, to using sales intelligence, to where it is today in the age of customer experience. 

Now there are incredibly sophisticated AI and ML-based tools that allow SaaS sales reps to provide a next-level personalized experience and match leads with the absolute best products for their business. 

But here’s the thing. Tools like these are nice and can have a big impact on your sales team’s performance, but I don’t personally believe they’re necessary for guided selling.

At the end of the day, being successful largely boils down to following three key tactics. 

  1.  Ensure Your Reps Know Their Stuff

Perhaps the most important part of guided selling is making sure your salespeople know your products inside and out. If there’s any confusion as to which SaaS product is best for which demographic in which circumstance, your reps are going to struggle. 

That’s why they need to be subject matter experts and understand how everything comes together in your sales ecosystem. Nailing that is half the battle.  

  1. Be Radically Transparent with Leads

As I said earlier, the whole purpose of guided selling is to create a process that enables a buyer to find the product that best suits their needs. And a big part of that is being transparent. 

Sales meeting scheduling app Chili Piper, for example, gives their leads a side-by-side comparison of their different products, along with specific features and integrations. 

That way leads can see firsthand if a lower priced product will be sufficient for their needs. Other brands even go so far as to offer a competitor’s product to provide a more thorough understanding — something that when executed correctly can be a major trust builder. 

  1. Give Leads What They Truly Need, Not What Necessarily Generates the Most Revenue

This may go against the fundamentals of best business practices, but hear me out. Guided selling is all about the long game where you build trust, which not only increases the odds of making an initial sale, but often leads to repeat sales, less churn, and deeper loyalty. 

So when you think of it like this, you see the value of pointing leads to the best product for them rather than what’s going to lead to the largest immediate sale. 

Aligning Your Sales Strategy With What Top Performing Teams Are Doing

Sales has evolved dramatically in the 21st century, with guided selling being one of the most undeniable trends. With high-performing SaaS sales teams being 2.3x more likely to use it than underperformers, it’s obviously worth your attention. Understanding the essentials of guided selling and adhering to a few core concepts should help you make the transition to this model more easily and position your sales team for success. 

Looking to build a stronger sales team from the ground up? See how HireDNA can help you attract and recruit A+ candidates and eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes. 

Top Skills Sales Managers Assess Based on In-Depth Data

In my last post, I discussed that having the ability to close was the number one skill top sales managers assessed in salespeople. This was the most important metric for 70% of sales managers. And it’s easy to see why given how critical closing deals is to profitability and the overall success of a company. 

I got my data from a survey conducted by digital learning and enablement platform Allego. Their data is incredibly robust, and while the ability to close was one of their main points of emphasis, there’s still a lot left to unpack. 

So for this post, I’d like to dive even deeper and go over all of the top skills sales managers assess, which is eight in total. Let’s jump right in. 

The 8 Top Sales Skills

In Allego’s survey, they determined which specific sales skills were most essential to sales managers, both when considering potential candidates for new hires, as well as assessing current team members. “We looked at the eight key aspects of sales competency including sales planning, prospecting, qualifying pipeline, pitching to prospects, negotiating contracts, closing deals, managing customers, and retaining customers,” they explain

As I mentioned in the intro, having the ability to close was the number one skill assessed by 70% of respondents. 

But just after that was the ability to prospect new opportunities at 69%. 

This indicates that the beginning and end of the sales process are the most critical areas of sales competency to measure. The best salespeople are able to effectively prospect new leads, move them efficiently through the sales cycle, and ultimately close. 

After that is the ability to retain existing clients at 59%. 

Churn is an inevitable part of running any type of business, especially a SaaS company. But it’s obviously something that needs to be kept in check, and sales managers will invariably want to seek out salespeople that help them retain the maximum number of customers. 

If you’re wondering, a retention rate of 35% over an eight-week period is considered elite for SaaS and e-commerce companies, so that’s a good number to shoot for. Here’s a graph that perfectly illustrates minimal churn (SaaS is the blue line and e-commerce is the orange line). 

Next is the ability to pitch a solution at 53%.  

Let’s be honest. Pitching isn’t easy, and there’s a serious art to it. Although having detailed product knowledge and providing salespeople with a formula and script to go off is a huge help and something I personally recommend, some reps are naturally better at it than others. 

When it comes to cold, hard selling, I honestly believe there’s only so much you can teach a rep. That’s why I consider having innate selling skills to be more important than extensive industry/product experience. Anyone can learn a product, but few people are A+ rockstars. So, it’s not surprising that having the ability to pitch is such a coveted sales skill. 

After that is the ability to qualify new deals at 52%. 

A qualified prospect is someone “who has a high probability of becoming a customer,” Zorian Rotenberg of HubSpot writes. “An opportunity should have a pain point your product or service can solve and an interest in the offering. Salespeople should ensure the opportunity is a good-fit for what they’re selling.”

Otherwise, your rep is basically wasting their time, which is why this is another key skill sales managers assess. 

This is followed by the ability to negotiate and the ability to plan strategically, which are both at 50%. 

When it comes to negotiation, reps will often be placed in tricky situations where they may need to adjust pricing, features, etc., on the fly to successfully close deals while at the same time remaining within the accepted parameters of your company. Because this has such a strong impact on closing deals, it’s easy to see why it’s such a major metric for sales managers. 

As for the ability to plan strategically, it’s a competency that affects virtually every aspect of a rep’s sales approach. From determining how to effectively qualify leads to building a script for pitching products to communicating with customers post-sale, reps need to have a clear strategy in place at all times. 

Finally, there’s effective time management at 46%. 

You may have heard the stat that nearly 65% of an average rep’s time is spent on non-revenue generating activities, such as administrative tasks and downtime activities like checking social media. While I personally think that number may be a little inflated, it definitely illustrates the importance of effective time management, which is why this skill made the list. 

Let’s Recap

The top eight skills sales managers assess in reps breaks down like this:

  1. Ability to close – 70%
  2. Ability to prospect new opportunities – 69%
  3. Ability to retain existing clients – 59%
  4. Ability to pitch a solution – 53%
  5. Ability to qualify new deals – 52%
  6. Ability to negotiate – 50%
  7. Ability to plan strategically – 50%
  8. Effective time management – 46%

While there are a ton of factors that determine how likely a salesperson is to succeed, these eight skills are the ones top sales managers focus on the most. So, if you’re looking to identify the best of the best metrics for gauging candidates during the hiring process, or if you’re assessing the performance of current team members, these are excellent metrics to examine.

Looking for a surefire way to find elite level sales talent to close more deals and take your business to the next level? Check out HireDNA today. Brands that use HireDNA are able to eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes, and 92% of candidates recommended through it are top performers within their first year.