There has been a longstanding mantra in sales: The more “No’s” we get, the closer we are to a “Yes.” Well, that’s garbage in my sales book. It’s old news, tired and worn out. It’s time to retire and bury this mantra.

Think about it: Why would you spend your valuable time talking to people you know will say no? This mantra about getting no’s emanates from prospecting systems that no longer work. It’s an old-school sales formula: make 100 cold calls, perhaps talk to 20 people, set eight to 10 appointments, and get one deal-if you’re lucky. Really, cold calling 100 people? That’s a lot of no’s, and a lot of time. It’s not a winning sales strategy.

Panning for Gold

There other prospecting activities that sales professionals count on, such as advertising, trade shows, marketing leads, web inquiries, and mail campaigns. All have a dismal conversion rate, averaging anywhere between 3 to 10 percent. Let’s be clear: these are visibility and credibility activities. They are important to build your brand, but they don’t make the phone ring off the hook. I’m not against them. In fact, I believe in establishing, building, and maintaining brand. However, I am against salespeople expecting earthshaking results from this type of sales activities. Customers react to these activities, they don’t engage.

Do the Math

Here’s the irony in how many sales professionals spend their time: When we’re referred and introduced to a qualified prospect-someone we want to meet and who wants to meet us-we get a new client a minimum of 50 percent of the time, and more likely 70 to 90 percent. There is no other marketing strategy that comes close to these sales results. It’s not about the number of no’s. And it’s not just about the number of yes’s (although they are really important).

It’s about connecting with people, learning about their businesses, and finding out how you can help them, so even if you do end up with the 30 percent who don’t become clients, these people will still be glad to brainstorm opportunities to refer you. And you will have even more yes’s. And you’ll set yourself up to win, and win big.

Tap Into Your Success

Remember that it’s not just about the number of leads, but the number that are qualified leads. Activity is important, but only if it’s quality activity. Mindless activity that focuses only on quantity is bad business. Referral selling is about using your past successes and your well-nurtured relationships to build your business. It’s like having your own private sales force putting you in touch with people you want to meet and who want to meet with you. Referral selling leverages your successes instead of endlessly starting over by prospecting for cold leads. Your prospecting will never be the same again.

Getting to YES

Don’t be hoodwinked: stay away from the no’s. When you go for the gold, you’re not satisfied with silver and bronze-or worse yet-no medal at all. Go for the yes, get those referrals, and just say no to no’s!