Stop kidding yourself. You’re cold calling.

Let’s set the record straight: A call is either hot or cold. There’s no such thing as a warm call, a warm email, warm social media prospecting, or even a warm knock on the door. (Yep, that still happens.). Unless your prospect expects to hear from you, your outreach is ice cold. If you’ve convinced yourself otherwise, you’re living in what I’ve termed the “warm call fantasy.”

The warm call fantasy goes something like this: You’ve researched prospects on social media, identified trigger events, and gathered information from social intelligence. You even have mutual connections on LinkedIn. You send emails making the business case for why these prospects should talk to you. You really believe you’re not cold calling, because you know all about them and even have a few “friends” in common. You’re not just dialing names from a bought list. You’ve put in the legwork. You’re sending “warm” emails, right?

Wrong! Unless you have a referral introduction from a mutual connection, your lead is freezing cold.

Wake Up from the Warm Call Fantasy

The problem with the warm call fantasy is that it’s only “warm” on your side. You might know all about your prospects, but they don’t know you and haven’t agreed to share their valuable time with you.

You know very well that cold prospects don’t want to hear from you. Just consider how many cold emails you get every day. (I get at least 50.) I bet you do the same thing I do—hit delete.

Attempting to connect with prospects you don’t know on social media is just as pointless. People create social media accounts to connect with others, not to receive sales pitches. No one would sign up for that. Social selling can be a great way to identify mutual contacts who could provide referrals. But before you start name dropping, reach out to your potential referral source and make sure that person actually has a relationship with your prospect. Explain why you want to meet the prospect and ask for an introduction. If they don’t introduce you, your prospect won’t expect to hear from you, and you’ll be cold calling.

(Image attribution: pixabay)

When you adopt referral selling and get a referral introduction from someone your prospect knows and trusts, your lead goes from ice cold to HOT, HOT, HOT. So, start thinking about how you spend your time and the payoff you want.

Before you do anything, think about your team.

What Kind of Salesperson Is on Your Team?

Living in a warm call fantasy is easy. Asking for referrals typically isn’t. Different types of salespeople shy away from referrals for different reasons and give different excuses for why they’re not tapping into their networks for sales: 

  • Technical expert (I’m not a salesperson, so I’m not comfortable asking for referrals.)
  • Reluctant salesperson (I’d rather do the work than prospect—any day.)
  • New to sales (I don’t have enough contacts to ask for referrals.)
  • Seasoned professional (I’ve been selling for years, and most of my business is already from referrals.)

Whatever the role in sales, most salespeople would do anything to avoid cold calling. Cold calling is a duplicitous, disingenuous tactic, and it doesn’t work. On the other hand, many salespeople also actively avoid asking for referrals, because it feels uncomfortable and they haven’t been taught how to ask for referrals in an effective way.

(Image attribution: August de Richelieu)

Cold calling is a total waste of every salesperson’s time, but referral selling is worth the effort because it delivers sales results for all types of salespeople, from newbies to small business owners to seasoned rainmakers. And by results, I mean a conversion rate of at least 50 percent (usually more like 70 percent).

So, wake up from the warm call fantasy. There’s a proven approach to building sales doing what salespeople do every day—talking to customers, colleagues, and friends. Salespeople already have a built-in referral network. By tapping into those networks for referrals, they’ll fill their pipelines with piping hot leads—the only kind that count.

(Featured image attribution: ankiyay)

(This post was originally published November 27, 2013 and updated February 16, 2023.)