Never Cold Call Again

By Lain Ehmann

If there’s one phrase that strikes dread in the hearts of your sales team, it’s cold calling. No matter how many great programs you design, no matter how many threats you make and weekly quotas you set, cold calls somehow never get the attention you hope they will. The reason cold calling doesn’t work is simple, says speaker and consultant Tim Templeton, author of The Referral of a Lifetime: The Networking System that Produces Bottom-Line Results…Every Day! (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2003). Cold calling is a pain, it’s uncomfortable and reps just don’t like to do it – so they don’t.

The solution, says Templeton, is to focus on referrals instead of shot-in-the-dark cold calls. Templeton offers these suggestions for creating a successful referral network.

Decide what kind of referrals are going to help you. If you’re an electronics rep, you might represent 20 to 25 product lines and know all the manufacturers. Instead of trying to get more manufacturers, use your network to get a foot in the doors of retailers. Templeton offers two key questions that everyone should ask: What is my sales cycle? How can I generate more referrals from my clients?

  • Think of referrals as the second close. Don’t consider the sale over until you’ve asked your customer or client for a referral, says Templeton.
  • Position yourself for referrals from the get-go. Salespeople often are reluctant to ask for referrals because they haven’t effectively set up their client’s expectations. As a result the request is uncomfortable because it seems to come out of the blue. “The majority of salespeople don’t position themselves for the second close,” Templeton says. “The referral process starts on day one.”
  • Make sure you deserve a referral before you ask for one. Asking for a referral before your deserve one is one of the biggest mistakes salespeople make, says Templeton. If you haven’t educated your client about how you and your company do business, if you haven’t fulfilled your obligations and you don’t have a happy customer, then you shouldn’t ask for a referral.
  • Maintain customer relationships. Another common mistake, Templeton says, is abandoning customers after the sale is over. Instead, he suggests using the time your team would be spending on cold calling and directing it towards developing relationships. “Develop relationships to the extent that you build barriers of entry to the competition,” he advises.

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