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Relationships rule in sales—always have and always will. Unless you sell a commodity, if you don’t establish trusting relationships with your prospects, they'll buy from someone else—salespeople they already know or who have been referred by people they trust.

So, why do sales teams rely on cold emails, cold calls, and cold social media outreach when it can take seven to 10 touches just to get a response? Decision-makers don’t take cold calls or respond to cold emails. They have better things to do, and so do sales teams.

Stop Fooling Yourself—A Cold Call Is Ice Cold

A call is either hot or cold. There’s simply no such thing as a warm call. Nor are emails or social media messages warm, just because you’ve done a little research. Regardless of how you reach out to prospects, your attempts are either:

  • Cold: The prospect doesn’t know you, doesn’t expect to hear from you, and probably doesn’t want to talk to you.
  • Hot: You’ve received a referral introduction from someone the prospect knows and trusts, so she expects and looks forward to your call.

There is no in-between.

How Asking for Referrals Works

A referral means you receive a personal introduction to your prospect, not just a name and contact information. Without an introduction, the prospect doesn’t know you and doesn’t expect to hear from you, which means you're cold calling. Period.

Here’s how a referral works:

  • You ask a colleague or client (the referral source) for an introduction to an ideal prospect.
  • The referral source talks to the prospect and gets agreement to meet with you.
  • The referral source introduces the two of you by email or phone, or in person.
  • You thank the referral source and schedule a time to talk to the sales prospect.
  • You reach out to the sales prospect, and he answers the phone because he actually expects the call.

How Asking for Referrals Gets the One-Call Meeting

When you get referrals, you:

  • Bypass the gatekeeper and score meetings with decision-makers every time
  • Earn trust and credibility with prospects, who are pre-sold on your ability to deliver results
  • Convert prospects into clients at least 50 percent of the time (usually more than 70 percent)
  • Land clients who become ideal referral sources for new business
  • Score more new clients from fewer leads (because all of your leads are qualified)
  • Meet with hot prospects while your competitors are still figuring out how to get in

The business case for referrals is loud and clear. Decision-makers will always meet with sales reps who’ve been referred by people they know and trust. If your competition gets to the decision-maker first, you might be out of the game. But when you’re asking for referrals and receiving introductions, deals are yours to win.

How do you want to spend your valuable selling time? Making cold calls and cold emailing prospects seven to 10 times? Or getting to decision-makers with just one call because you have referral introductions? It’s really a no-brainer.

Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling—the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time.