lead generationDon’t expect sales leads to pour in without it!

I stared at the download form, trying to decide if it was worth it. A colleague had recommended I read this whitepaper, and the content certainly sounded interesting. But as usual, the free download came at a cost: my contact information.

I could picture the sales rep on the receiving end of that lead generation form, already ramping up to barrage me with emails and stupid cold calling scripts. I took the bait, and sure enough, the calls and emails started that day. And that poor sales rep wasted his time and mine.

Of course, he’s probably accustomed to that. Research shows it takes seven to 12 touches to reach a prospect, so cold callers know the odds are against them every time they pick up the phone or copy and paste their cold calling scripts into emails.

These lead generation strategies are wastes of time for any B2B sales rep, but for account-based sellers with named accounts, they’re pointless. Why would anyone make seven to 12 calls when they can score meetings in one call with referral introductions? And account-based sellers have the best possible referral sources—current clients who can introduce them to decision-makers in other departments.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It’s simple, but it’s not easy. If it was, more sales teams would do it. That’s why sales leaders who commit to a referral program knock out their competition and close referred leads well more than 50 percent of the time.

Referral Lead Generation Takes Personal Connections

Adopting a referral program requires a new way of thinking about lead generation. Or more accurately, it requires reverting back to the old ways. 

New sales technology lets us do many things better and faster. But while you can automate your sales process, you can’t automate relationships. When connecting with prospects, clients, and referral sources, the old-school ways still work best.

Account-based sellers should always ask for referrals in person or on the phone—never via email or LinkedIn. Why?

  • A conversation is more personal. Referral selling is a highly personal interaction. We only refer others when we’re confident they’ll take care of our connections just as we would. If your account based sellers don’t know referral sources well enough to call them, they don’t know these people well enough to ask for referrals.
  • A conversation yields more information. Speaking with referral sources gives account-based sellers the opportunity to explain why they’re requesting introductions and outline the results that the prospects they refer can expect. They find out how well referral sources actually know the prospects. (Just because two people are connected on social media doesn’t mean they have a real relationship.) They also get insights from their referral sources about the decision-makers they need to meet—their goals, their challenges, their personalities, and what triggers their decisions.
  • A conversation is a chance to reconnect. Asking for referrals is a great reason for account-based sellers to reach out and nurture relationships with referral sources. When requesting introductions, reps should also ask how they can help the referral sources.

Many account-based sellers have become overly reliant on technology for lead generation. For them, it seems easier to ask for referrals or to prospect using technology. But with screens separating them from prospects and referral sources, they miss out on opportunities to build relationships and make the real human connections that actually power sales.

3 Deadly Referral Mistakes

There’s a lot of bad advice about referrals. I read many articles about referrals that send me up a tree. Some promote getting referrals without asking, setting aside a specific day or week for a referral blitz, or thinking that getting a name is a referral.

Let me set the record straight: Referral selling requires personal introductions. It also requires a disciplined referral program. Otherwise, sales reps make these common referral mistakes:

  • Relying on Word of Mouth
    No account-based seller worth her salt sits back and waits for the phone to ring. That’s what happens when sales reps say they get leads by word of mouth. Wake-up call: Even your best-served clients don’t spend much time thinking about your company, except when they need your services. They have their own jobs to do and businesses to run. While they’d be happy to refer your sales team, most won’t think to do so unless they’re asked. And your sales team probably won’t think to ask unless you have a disciplined referral program with skills building, metrics, and accountability for results.
  • Getting a Name
    Account-based sellers say they don’t cold call. They get a name, check out the prospect’s profile on LinkedIn, and identify trigger events. Then they send off a “personalized” email and drop the names of other people they’ve worked with inside the prospect’s company. But a name does not a referral make. Unless the prospect knows the sales rep and expects to hear from him, the call or email is cold. All it takes to be an expected and welcome call is a referral introduction from someone the prospect knows and trusts.
  • Believing Referral Selling Is an Event
    A referral program is an ongoing system, not something you cram into a week or a month. Rather than launching referral blitzes, sales leaders should hold sellers accountable for asking for referrals from every single client. That’s how you keep your pipeline full of hot referral leads.

Referral selling transforms everything it touches. When you commit to a referral program and integrate it into your sales process, your account-based sellers will generate more qualified leads, foster better long-term relationships with customers, decrease your cost of sales, and generate more revenue than ever before. And best of all, your reps will never have to cold call again.

To learn more about how to fill your team’s pipeline with hot referral leads, check out No More Cold Calling’s Referral Program for Sales Leaders and Their Teams.

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