Promises and bird dog fees: Ways to nurture referral business

Publish Date: 
Jun 16, 2014
By Rod Stuckey

Ever heard of Joe Girard?

He holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s greatest salesman, selling 13,001 new cars and trucks during his 15-year retail career.

Joe was a true professional at getting referrals from every customer. If the average person knows 52 people who will show up for his or her wedding or funeral, Joe theorized, then that average person must know at least one other person in the market who needs or wants a new car.

Consider this: If every one of your customers were to refer one new customer to your dealership, you would double your business. That’s pretty powerful.

A Motorcycle Industry Council owner’s survey cited ‘the influence of friends and family’ as the third most important factor in a decision to buy a specific model, behind test rides and visits to the dealership. While there aren’t as many motorcycle buyers as car buyers, riders do tend to hang around other riders more.


Even though I write about this often, many in the industry still don’t realize that only 3 percent of the American population owns a motorcycle. Finding powersports enthusiasts in your market can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack -- if you don’t know where to look. Most riders have friends and family that ride, so they can be great resources to connect you with targeted prospects.

Since the influence of friends and family ranks so high in the buyer’s decision to purchase, it makes sense to look seriously at how you can create a referral culture in your dealership.

Another compelling reason to focus on referrals is that the closing ratio and gross margin are proven to be significantly higher than ice-cold, walk-in visitors.

This is because referrals come in the door with an associated level of trust. If my friend trusts this dealer, and I trust my friend, then I will also trust this dealer. And of course, people buy from people they trust.

It’s not just the motorcycle and automotive business that benefit from the power of referrals. Billion-dollar online shoe and apparel seller Zappos credits word of mouth as its primary form of marketing.