What do salespeople dread most?

Would you rather give up sex for one month or make cold calls for a week? According to a 2010 survey of 1,226 salespeople, most would choose abstinence. The only activity they deemed worse than cold calling was getting a root canal.

No one should have to do a job that is almost as bad as dental surgery, especially not when there’s a better way to sell—with referral introductions from people your prospects know, like, and trust.

Sure, this research was conducted a few years back, but it’s even more applicable today. In addition to buying lists, sending direct mail, dropping off brochures at company headquarters (yes, that still happens), or sending spam emails, we’ve added social media to the mix. Salespeople now attempt to connect with strangers on LinkedIn and message them with thinly-veiled sales pitches.

This all amounts to cold calling. Your recipient has no clue who you are, never invited you to contact him, and probably doesn’t want to hear from you.

No wonder salespeople would prefer a root canal! At least the dentist is happy to see them.

Stop Pestering Your Prospects

I usually don’t spend much time bashing cold calling. I prefer to focus on what does work—referral selling. But I don’t believe anyone should ever have to cold call, and when I read advice from “experts” on this unproductive prospecting strategy, it sends me over the top.

Recently, a blogger shared 10 tips for making better cold calls. In the first sentence, she described cold calling as a game. Let’s be clear: Sales is not a game. It is a profession—a serious profession that requires skill and confidence. And cold calling wastes both your time and talent.

Cold emails or LinkedIn messages are just as bad. These annoying, impersonal, nonspecific, and unsolicited messages clog up Inboxes and drive people nuts. Like everyone else, you probably get tons of them. What do you do? I’d bet money you delete most or all of them without even bothering to respond. After all, do you really want to hear from people who don’t even know your name? Clearly they haven’t put much time or effort into engaging you.

Put Cold Calling on Ice

Salespeople often tell me they’re required to make 100 dials a day. If they’re lucky, they might get 20 people on the phone, set eight appointments, and perhaps close one deal. That’s a 1-percent return on your time investment. Yikes!

Imagine how much more productive you would be if you only talked to people who want to hear from you—who have been told by someone they trust that you’re an expert with valuable ideas and solutions. To be an expected and welcome call, all you need is a referral introduction.

All the social-intelligence tools in the world are useless without personal intelligence—the ability to build and nurture relationships, and to leverage those real-life connections for referrals. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time annoying strangers.

Do you have the personal intelligence skills needed to seal the deal? Take my Referral I.Q. Quiz to find out.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

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