B2B SalesEnsure your sales team makes time to practice these critical prospecting strategies.

Building professional skills takes practice—deliberate practice. But adults resist practice. We get paid to do our jobs correctly the first time. Practice is on our own time. And who has extra time just floating around?

Children practice all the time, without fear. Remember learning to ride a bike? You probably started with a tricycle (very safe), then got a bicycle with training wheels (safe), which you eventually dropped for a free ride (not so safe). You fell, skinned your knees, and got back on. You eventually got good, really good. But it didn’t happen overnight.

B2B sales reps don’t get good overnight either. And even the most experienced sellers get rusty without regular practice. This is particularly true when it comes to asking for referrals, which even seasoned sales professionals find intimidating without regular practice.

I don’t like to practice either. But I go into a room with my timer, my notes, and a wall-to-wall mirror. I stumble over my words and begin again … and again. I want to stay at the top of my game, and I know that excellence in any field requires ongoing, exhausting, and sometimes embarrassing practice.

We all grew up hearing that practice makes perfect. Isn’t that a downer? It sets the bar too high. I gave up seeking perfection years ago. There’s no such thing. Then one of my clients said, “Practice makes permanent.” Yes, finally a statement I understood and could promote!

Want your sales team to build permanent, repeatable, effective referral selling skills? Then make time for practice. And make it a requirement—for them and for you.

Here’s how B2B sales professionals can keep their referral skills sharp:

1. Practice Asking for Referrals

When salespeople receive qualified referrals, they arrive pre-sold, have instant trust and credibility, shorten the sales process, ace out the competition, and get new clients between 50 and 90 percent of the time. No other sales or marketing strategy gets results like these.

Current clients are the best source of new business, but we must ask. Very few refer us on their own. After all, they’re focused on their businesses, not on ours. That’s why I only count on what I bring about. If we wait for referrals to happen, our businesses won’t grow.

But a word of warning: asking for referrals feels uncomfortable at first for most salespeople. That’s why I advise my clients to practice in a safe environment before talking to potential referral sources. That could mean practicing alone in front of a mirror, with close friends or colleagues, or with their sales leaders. I also suggest salespeople find an Accountability Partner—someone to keep them on track and tell them the truth. Someone to be “in their face” and ensure they do what they say they’ll do. Someone who expects them to practice and report their results.

2. Practice Giving Referrals

We must give to receive, right? Connecting people not only feels good, but it also helps someone who might return the favor someday. And when we refer people we know and trust, we become valuable, credible resources.

I’ve built my business entirely through referrals, but I’ve given as many (or more) than I’ve received. Because my referral sources and prospects know I have a large network, they realize that I am also a great source of information that can make a difference for them. Sometimes I get non-business requests for referrals—for a dog walker, mechanic, realtor … you name it. My suggestions are invariably met with, “I knew you would know someone.” What a great compliment!

Your salespeople should actively look for opportunities to give referrals as often as possible. They could refer resources to your clients; refer your clients to their prospects; or refer other salespeople who aren’t your competitors.

3. Practice Your Follow-Through

You’ve probably heard the saying, “The fortune’s in the follow-up.” There’s no excuse today for not following up—immediately—with clients, prospects, and referral sources. At a minimum, send an e-mail. Better yet, send a handwritten note. We receive so few handwritten notes these days. Which mail do you open first? Not the gas bill.

People forget about us if they haven’t heard from us. It’s important for salespeople to follow up and keep in touch. Develop a campaign to send relevant information on a regular basis. I send a monthly newsletter, and each month I get a response from several people I haven’t heard from in years. For some reason, the message was timely, and they’re ready to talk. Some just write that my message spoke to them—nothing more. That feels great.

Don’t let your team get by without practicing these and other critical prospecting skills. Practice becomes your game-changing, compelling event. Practice is your sales organization’s future.

Referrals are the best way to “land and expand” in named accounts. It’s the way top salespeople have always generated qualified sales leads, but now is the time for referrals reinvented. To learn more about the #1 referral program for account-based sellers, contact Joanne at (415) 461-8763 or joanne@nomorecoldcalling.com.

account-based sales

Connect with No More Cold Calling

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

Scroll Up