Is your team tired of cold calling?

Some people say it takes seven to 12 touches for sales reps to reach their prospects. Is that how you want your team spending their time?

The #1 challenge sales reps face is getting to decision-makers quickly. Seven to 12 touches doesn’t cut it. But when sales organizations put referral programs in place, reps don’t need to jump through hoops to get meetings. Because they have referral introductions from their prospects’ trusted colleagues, they always receive a call back.

It’s the one-call referral meeting!

Referral Programs Are Straightforward, Simple, and Smart

Here’s how a referral introduction works:

  • The rep asks a colleague or client (the referral source) for an introduction to an ideal prospect.
  • The referral source talks to the sales prospect and gets agreement to meet with the rep.
  • The referral source introduces the two of them by email or phone, or in person.
  • The rep thanks the referral source and schedules a time to talk to the sales prospect.
  • The rep reaches out to the sales prospect, and he answers the phone because he actually expects the call.

Every sales leader and sales rep agrees that generating referral leads is the most productive outbound prospecting strategy. Yet, 95 percent of companies haven’t implemented a systematic, disciplined referral program with metrics, skills, and accountability for results.

The Problem with Your Referral Program

Referral selling shouldn’t be an afterthought. It’s a disciplined process sales leaders need to learn. Are you “all in” with referral selling, or just trying it on? Are you telling your team to ask for referrals? Or do you unequivocally believe and trust that you have a referral process in place to drive revenue, save your job, and position your company for sales success?

Referrals don’t just happen, at least not at scale. Yes, occasionally a well-served client will mention your company to another buyer and you’ll magically get a sale. But how often does that really happen? Unless you have a systematic, disciplined program in place to ensure your reps ask for referrals from every single client, your team is leaving money on the table.

Here’s why many referral programs fail:

  1. Referral selling is a new skill that requires practice and coaching. Most salespeople don’t know how to ask for referral introductions. Many have tried asking in the past without any luck because they thought it was enough to tell people, “Hey, if you know anyone who could benefit from my services, please refer me.” But even the best-intentioned friends and clients will forget such a generic request after the conversation ends. Sales reps must make a case, not a plea.
  2. Referral selling is very personal, and most salespeople are uncomfortable about asking. They fear doing so might jeopardize a relationship. They say it feels pushy or they worry the other person will say “no.” (Fear of rejection is much stronger when salespeople talk to people they know, rather than cold calling strangers.)
  3. Referral programs need metrics. Referrals can be tracked and measured just as easily as results from cold calling, direct mail, and advertising. But without metrics, there’s no accountability for results.
  4. Sales leaders haven’t made referrals a process or a priority. Referral selling must be your #1 business-development outreach. “Priority” is a singular word. Referral selling is either a priority, or it’s not. Referrals must be tightly integrated into your sales process and reinforced with rewards and recognition for your referral programs to scale.

Adopting a referral program is simple, but it isn’t easy. It requires a complete shift in the way your team thinks about referrals, and in how they go about getting them.

It Takes Personal Connections to Get Referral Leads

Remember the movie Space Cowboys (2000)? Four long-retired test pilots—played by Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Clint Eastwood, and Donald Sutherland—are sent into space to repair an old Soviet satellite, a mission only they know how to accomplish.

As this is Hollywood, they are teamed up with two young astronauts who see them as geriatrics—out of shape and out of date—and treat them like they belong in an old-age home. During the training simulations, our heroes instruct the new guys how to land a space shuttle manually, which the young astronauts think is ridiculous. With their modern machine, all they need to know is how to make an instrument landing.

Even if you haven’t seen the film, you can probably guess what happens. On re-entry, the shuttle’s computer system is non-responsive, and the team must land it manually.

What does this have to do with referral selling? New sales technology lets us do many things better and faster. But when it comes to connecting with prospects, the old-school ways still work best. You can automate your sales process, but you can’t automate relationships.

When it comes to communicating with clients and prospects—building the kind of relationships that increase sales and revenue, and drive referral leads— there’s simply no gadget, gizmo, or digital strategy that replaces real human connections. Get your team off their computers and insist they connect in-person or on the phone with their referral sources.

Technology won’t get your sales reps a one-call meeting, but a strong connection and a referral introduction will.

What Are You Waiting For?

Referral selling is simple, but it’s not easy. However, when you implement a disciplined referral program, build referral skills, and establish referral metrics, accountability, and rewards, you’ll secure immediate results.

Your team will quickly get meetings at the level that counts and convert well more than 50 percent of prospects into great clients! Then those new clients refer you to other ideal clients who accept your calls and call you back. That’s how referrals scale and open the door to sales success. Get the one-call meeting.

What’s holding your team back? Please share your referral selling challenges in the comments section below.

Ready to put a referral program in place? Click here to find out how No More Cold Calling can help.

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

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