handshakeHere’s what you might have missed from No More Cold Calling this month.

Think sales has changed a lot? Sure, technology has shifted the way we work. But while technology may power sales research, people still power the close

Top salespeople have always won deals based on their well-nurtured relationships, inquisitive nature, insightful questioning, ability to demonstrate the value of their solution, and willingness to walk away if their solution doesn’t fit. They also win by getting referrals.

I’ll put it right up front: Technology alone won’t deliver the complete answer. Never has and never will. Technology won’t deliver world peace or develop a cure for the common cold. And it certainly won’t solve our sales challenges.

Technology is a great tool, but selling is still a person-to-person business. That’s why the salesmen and saleswomen who cultivate relationships and leverage them for introductions to prime prospects get meetings faster, fill their pipelines with hot sales leads, and convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time.

This is what I discussed with Matt Heinz when he hosted me on his podcast. Our topic: “How to get the one-call referral meeting.” You can listen here.

For more on the power of a referral program, check out this month’s blog posts from No More Cold Calling:

How Getting Referrals Got Me to the Protected C-Suite

I hung up the phone, feeling excited and still a bit nervous. I’ve been selling for decades, but I’d never spoken with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Yet, getting Bill on the phone was surprisingly easy, thanks to a referral from someone he trusts. My referral source, Larry, is one of Bill’s largest clients. I asked Larry what’s important to Bill, what he’s like, and which of my messages would resonate best. Larry shared some fun stories that weren’t exactly off-color, but probably weren’t common knowledge. (That’s the best part of getting referrals: leveraging the insights of your referral source.) Many salesmen and saleswomen would give their right arm for a chance to bypass all the middlemen and talk directly to the CEO. But that almost never happens, because CEOs and other senior decision-makers have a powerful weapon at their disposal—their trusty gatekeepers. These assistants will shut cold callers down without a second thought. The only way to get past their watchful eye is to be an expected and welcome call. (Read “How Getting Referrals Got Me to the Protected C-Suite.”)

The #1 Sales Management Problem You Can Fix

Tomorrow is your company’s biggest presentation of the year, but everyone involved is down with the flu. Sure, you could prescribe plenty of tea, throat lozenges, and numerous over-the-counter drugs. But those methods will only treat the symptoms, not the real sales management problem: a lack of proper planning. It’s similar to the conversations most sales reps have with prospects. They ask one or two questions and assume they have zeroed in on the client’s need and can offer an appropriate solution. This is rarely the case. Surface-level questioning usually only identifies symptoms, not the real problem. This sales strategy is doomed to fail. Instead, salespeople must take the time to dig deep and evaluate each prospect’s unique situation in order to actually understand and define the real need or problem. These insights are what clients and prospects really want from sales reps—not a one-size-fits-all solution, but tailored advice from experts who know their stuff. (Read “The #1 Sales Management Problem You Can Fix.”)

Do “Refer a Friend” Programs Actually Work? Absolutely! Sometimes.

B2C incentives work like magic. We all love saving money and brag about getting great deals. We line up when stores offer limited supplies of “whatever.” We grab every coupon and sales ad we can find, use Groupon for deep discounts on special events and luxury services, and take advantage of “refer a friend” offers any chance we get. But in the B2B world, incenting people to provide referrals isn’t the no-brainer sales strategy that it is for consumer-facing companies. There are two kinds of incentives companies provide for referrals: incentives for clients, colleagues, and friends who refer business, and incentives for salespeople who bring in new clients through a referral program. Only one of these strategies is a good idea. (Read “Do “Refer a Friend” Programs Actually Work? Absolutely! Sometimes.”)

Asking for Referrals Via Email—Big Mistake

How many emails are waiting in your inbox? Enough to make you dread opening it? Most people have a love/hate relationship with email. It’s both a fantastic business tool and a huge time-waster. Worse yet, digital communication is beginning to replace the real human connections that drive sales. There’s nothing wrong with email. The problem is that people rely on it even when actually talking to someone is quicker, easier, and more appropriate. Whether you’re asking for referrals, communicating with your team, or having an in-depth conversation, emailing often sends the wrong message. Written communication doesn’t convey tone of voice or provide the rich opportunities to connect with other people. It also doesn’t say, “You’re worth my real time.” And that’s a particularly big no-no when sales reps are asking for referrals. (Read “Asking for Referrals Via Email—Big Mistake.”)

Test Your Referral Savvy

I’m conducting a study on referrals, and I need your help. Please take my 14-question Referral I.Q. Quiz. The questions are mostly “Yes/No,” and it should take less than four minutes to complete. Rest assured, it’s completely anonymous, with no forms to fill out.

Once you’ve finished, you’ll be bounced over to a results page, where you can see the aggregated answers from everyone who has participated.

Take the Referral I.Q. Quiz now.

My goal is to get a 1,000-person sample, so please invite your network to take the quiz as well. Participation is anonymous, and I promise you won’t be added to any lists. Thanks in advance for your support!