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Cold Calling vs. Asking for Referrals: Which Is Scarier? (October Referral Selling Insights)

Here’s what you might have missed this month from No More Cold Calling.

Most sales reps dread cold calling, but they don’t exactly fear it. After all, they have no skin in the game. If someone hangs up or sprays them with expletives, they move onto the next name on the list. No harm, no foul when you’re talking to strangers. But whether or not they want to admit it, most salespeople do fear asking for referrals. Especially men.

I’ve been asked in the past if women or men are better at referral sales, and I didn’t think it mattered. Once people have built referral skills and learned how to ask for referrals, the genders fare pretty equally. At least that was my belief until two highly experienced, savvy salesmen told me they felt uncomfortable asking. Why? They said men are supposed to know stuff and be strong, and it’s weak to ask for help. They confessed they were afraid to ask.

I was stunned. In my 22 years teaching referral sales, no man has been that forthright. Sure, I’ll need to test this with a lot more men, but their comments got me thinking. There’s a lot that’s scary about sales, for all of us—making quota, navigating shifting buyer expectations, keeping a full pipeline, and getting meetings with decision makers. The good news is that a referral sales methodology mitigates these fears and more.

Learn more in my blog posts from this month:

They Actually Said My Sales Lead Generation Is Old School

I’ve had it with the accusations that referrals don’t scale, that referrals are a favor, that referrals can be digital, that all you need to do is ask for referrals, and the other crap that so-called experts tout on social media. I don’t usually use the word “crap” in my writing. But you better believe I use it when I speak with my colleagues … and yes, my clients. I also don’t usually dedicate much blog space to tooting my own horn. Instead, I prefer to focus on sharing insights and tips for referral sales lead generation. But due to some recent conversations and social media comments, and some crappy articles I’ve read about referral selling lately, I’m all fired up and ready to speak frankly. (Read “They Actually Said My Sales Lead Generation Is Old School.”)

Why You Need to Make Time for Asking for Referrals

Message to sales leaders: Your job is to get the rocks off the road so your team can close deals, exceed quota, and blow past revenue goals. That’s not happening with cold calling. Account execs remain overwhelmed with conflicting messaging, technology overload, and lack of resources. Teams are working all hours, lack sufficient sleep, and skipping vacation. Oh, and they’re not making quota—not even close. According to CSO Insights, “Only slightly more than half of sales representatives (53%) are meeting or exceeding their quotas.” You know who doesn’t have to worry about reps making quota? Organizations that have a disciplined, proactive referral system to ensure sales reps are asking for referrals every single day. (Read “Why You Need to Make Time for Asking for Referrals.”)

Cold Calling Techniques Make Your Pipeline Fat, but Not Fit

Sure, cold calling techniques put lots of leads in the pipe. Enough for management to see that reps made the requisite number of phone calls, email pitches, and social media connections. But are those really leads, or just smoke-and-mirror numbers? Reps have their cold call list, and they go at it—with automatic dialers, AI virtual assistants, and other automation technology. In doing so, they consistently waste their time, because the cold calling success rate is dismal. It can take a dozen touches to reach a prospect this way, and are they even prospects? Are they qualified? More often than not, they’re just names of people who don’t want to be on a cold call list. Management doesn’t need more leads in the pipe; they need more qualified leads. (Read “Cold Calling Techniques Make Your Pipeline Fat, but Not Fit.”)

Are You Always “On”? (Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be)

Working too much? You might not have a choice. Employers are more and more demanding. If you’re in sales, you assume you pretty much need to be “on” all the time, lest you miss an opportunity. No wonder salespeople check email on vacation, first thing in the morning, and well after work hours. That’s not healthy. We need breaks. We need vacation. We need to make time to be with our kids and our friends. We need to exercise. I understand that selling is a full-time job, but consider the toll it takes on you—not just personally, but also professionally. Recent research shows that working longer hours decreases productivity and negatively impacts the quality of our work. (Read “Are You Always “On”? (Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be).”)

 

 

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