canstockphoto8297665Are out-of-date prospecting systems holding you back?

“I’ve been hearing wonderful things about you.” Don’t you love hearing that? Now imagine a sales world where you only meet with clients who want to meet with you—a world where you never have to cold call, send prospecting letters, pester strangers on social media, or entice clients with special offers. Enter the world of referral selling.

In this new world, you’ll spend your time wisely. You’ll discover how to get more referrals—and seal more deals—all while working less. You’ll transform the way you work so that you’re only serving fabulous clients—those you enjoy talking to, and who generate plenty of revenue.

Once you experience the success of a referral-prospecting strategy, there’s no turning back.

What Makes Referral Selling So Critical?

The focus of most sales efforts is conducting sales calls, asking probing questions, proposing, presenting, and closing. But that’s the easy part, at least for sales pros with real expertise. The hard part is getting in front of the right people—prospects who want what you’re selling and who have the power to make deals happen.

How much time and energy do you typically spend getting in front of the right people? How many hours do you waste cold calling lists of people who may or may not have decision-making authority, following up on unqualified leads, or even calling door-to-door? It doesn’t have to be like that. When you receive referral introductions from people your prospects know and trust, you have the inside track. You know exactly whom you need to meet, and your prospects welcome your call.

If 100 percent of your business comes from referrals and you already have more clients than you can handle, you don’t need to continue reading. Otherwise, get ready to do some hard—and deeply satisfying—work.

How to Get More Referrals: What You’ll Need

Referral selling is logical and simple, but it’s not easy. Otherwise, every sales organization would have a referral strategy in place. You’ll need to learn several new skills as you make the transition to referral selling—including who, how, and when to ask for referrals. But the rewards are almost instantaneous: better customers, better sales, and a less stressful work life.

Along with new skill sets, you’ll also need:

1. Dedication

It takes courage and determination to transform the way you sell. You’ll run into naysayers who think referrals don’t really work, that they don’t scale, or that they take too long. You’ll quickly learn this is all hogwash. But don’t even begin your referral journey unless you agree to tune out the interlopers. Put your referral stake in the ground, and leave those negative people to play in their own sandbox.

You’ll also need to dedicate time to learning, practicing, and implementing your referral-selling plan. You must have a disciplined process with accountability for results. Consider the gym. Why do you need a trainer? All the equipment you need is there. But with a trainer, you show up, learn new ways of training your muscles, continually improve your fitness level, and increase your strength and stamina. You understand that the only way you’ll get results is to show up, work hard, and continue to refine your skills. The same goes for referral selling. If you don’t hold yourself accountable, you’ll give up quickly and go back to cold calling. Yuck!

2. The Personal Touch

You’ll need to get connected and stay connected. This means keeping the lines of communication open with all of your referral networks. Just as importantly, it means taking the time to make real human connections with your prospects and clients.

We’re all linked to technology more than ever before. But people still buy from people they know, like, and trust—not from technology. The problem is that many of us spend more time talking on our cell phones, checking email, or showing off the bells and whistles on our latest gadgets than we do actually connecting with people … especially new people.

Selling is very, very personal. We need to be present, involved, and connected—one human being to the other. It’s then that we can make the person-to-person sale. Technology is a tool that supports people; it does not replace us.

3. An Open Mind

When you transition to referral selling, you transform the way you work. But change isn’t easy. You’ll throw traditional sales models out the door, challenge practices that aren’t working, and enroll others in your referral-selling effort. Just remember, change is how we grow—and the old ways aren’t always best.

There’s an old story about a little girl who watched her mother cut off the ends of a ham before she put it in the roasting pan. When the little girl asked her mother why she did this, the mother thought for a moment and said: “I don’t know. My mother always did it that way. Why don’t you ask your grandmother?” So the little girl asked her grandmother, who responded: “That’s simple. The pan wasn’t big enough.”

One of my first lessons about challenging the status quo was at Joseph Magnin, a women’s specialty store in San Francisco. It was my first job out of college, and I entered the management training program. One day early on, I wanted to rearrange a display of elegant gifts, so I asked some older employees for their opinion. They all insisted it had never been done that way before. When I told my manager about their feedback, she looked at me and said, “That’s the best reason I know for doing it.” I was 22 years old, and I have never forgotten her response. She probably had no clue what an impression she made on me.

Since that time, I continue to challenge traditional ways of working. I challenge tired prospecting techniques like cold calling, direct mail campaigns, advertising, and trade shows—and the expectation that these activities alone will deliver great clients.

I invite you to challenge why you are selling the way you are selling. If what you are doing is giving you the life you want, keep doing it. Otherwise, have an open mind and catch the Referral Spirit!

Do you know how to get more referrals? Take my Referral I.Q. Quiz to test your referral-selling savvy, and learn where your skills need improvement.

(Note: This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn Publisher.)

Connect with No More Cold Calling

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