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How Account-Based Sellers Make Money with a Proven Referral Program

Tired technology just can’t compete now.

Let me let you in on a secret: Account-based selling isn’t anything new.

This lead generation strategy is the source of much hype in our industry. There are even new acronyms and monikers, such as “land and expand” and “seed and grow.” People talk about it as if it’s some recently discovered prospecting strategy. But it’s just a new word for what those of us who sell to named accounts have always done.

Account-based selling is, however, an extremely effective way to sell, especially when it’s partnered with a robust referral program. Getting referrals is the #1 way for prospecting into named accounts and then expanding to other areas of a client company.

How to Land and Expand (or Whatever Buzzword You Want to Call It)

Savvy sales leaders understand that when selling to large enterprises, reps must get in quickly, close deals, deliver on their promises, and expand to other divisions. But account-based selling requires more than just determination and lead generation tools. It requires a referral program—a disciplined, measurable, systematic referral system.

It’s much simpler to get to decision-makers with qualified referrals. Prospects will always take meetings with B2B sales reps who’ve been referred by colleagues they know and trust. And your current clients would be happy to refer your team to decision-makers in other departments.

Problem is, they probably won’t think to do so unless they’re asked.

When your account-based sellers ask every single client for referrals, your team will generate qualified sales leads faster and more consistently than with any other prospecting method. Referrals are even more important now that the average buyer committee has at least 6.8 people, according to CEB. (I’m scared to think what 8/10 of a person looks like, but you get the picture.)

Last year, that number was 5.4. As committees grow and sellers need to impress more and more people just to get one deal, it will be more important than ever to quickly build relationships and establish trust. Referrals give sales reps a head start on both.

A referral program, systematically executed, enables your sales team to:

  • Build referral skills so they know how to make all sales leads count
  • Convert more than 70 percent of prospects into clients
  • Ace out the competition (While others are reduced to digital lead generation, your account-based sellers are getting personal introductions to decision-makers.)

Best of all, your team can get these results without ever cold calling again. And that’s good news, because today’s buyers don’t respond to cold calls, cold emails, or cold social media tactics. It takes 18 dials for a cold caller to connect with a buyer, according to research by TOPO, and only 23.9 percent of sales emails are opened.

Do you really want your top sellers wasting their time with such outdated and intrusive lead generation tactics?

Relationships Trump Technology in Account-Based Selling

Many truly believe that technology is the key to lead generation. Really? I’m stymied.

Sure, for reps who sell commodities, enhanced technology is imperative. But account-based sellers are selling complex solutions that require an in-depth understanding of the prospect company—who all buyers are, how decisions are made, what their real business challenges are, what other solutions and vendors they’re considering.

Your sales team won’t get this intelligence with a cold outreach—even if their emails are enticing. But when they receive referral introductions, they get relevant insights right out of the gate.

Technology still plays an important role for account-based sellers. It can help them identify key drivers in their target companies, determine who to contact, find mutual connections, and even learn a bit about the challenges prospects are facing. But technology won’t tell account-based sellers how to minimize risk for prospects. It won’t tell them who the key influencers are within a company, who has the budget, how decisions are made, or any of the other “personal stuff” that really matters.

Why? Because people buy from people, not from technology. More specifically, they buy from B2B sales reps who develop and foster relationships, ask probing questions, and uncover pressing needs that must be addressed.

The Early Bird Gets the Deal

The #1 goal of account-based sellers is to get in before prospects even know they have a need. Referred salespeople get in the door early, build relationships, and get the lay of the land. They don’t just offer solutions to prospects’ unique needs; they help identify those needs. Suddenly, the chances of a competitive challenge are slim. Sure, many companies are required to send out an RFP. But your account-based sellers are in a position to help draft the RFP.

Think about what’s happened in the past when you responded to an RFP. Your sales and marketing teams spent hours or even days crafting a great proposal. Perhaps you made the short list, so you spent more time developing a presentation, determining who should be on the team, and flying them somewhere to present. But you still lost, because your competitor had already established a relationship with the prospect before you ever entered the picture. And that’s how people make decisions.

That’s why referral selling is your biggest competitive differentiator and your team’s ticket into the C-suite.

Account-based sellers can’t depend on marketing for lead generation. They must take responsibility for qualified lead generation and scoring meetings with decision-makers. Help them get started by implementing a strategic referral program with skills, metrics, accountability for results, and an immediate integration into your sales process.

Ready to help your team get every meeting with one call and build powerful connections your competition can’t touch? Learn how No More Cold Calling can help you create a winning referral program.

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Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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