Sales organizations tell account based sales reps to do their research—to gather every piece of sales intelligence, to exploit all their social media channels, and to know a little bit about prospects and trigger events at their companies. Then salespeople need to call or email with pithy, targeted messages to connect and get meetings.
But that’s not connecting, at least not in the way that matters for relationship building. If reps just have information—not real-world connections—their calls, emails, and LinkedIn messages are ice cold. Sales prospects don’t know them and don’t expect to hear from them. That’s the simple, precise definition of a cold call.
Cold calling wastes your team’s time and your company’s money. So does pitching strangers on LinkedIn and calling it “social selling.” That’s not social selling. That’s social stalking. It’s digital dependence at its worst.
The best account based sales development strategies blend social intelligence with personal intelligence. Reps get information online, but they get meetings via referrals.
Consider this: 72.6 percent of salespeople who engage in social selling outperform their sales peers and exceed quota 23 percent more often. And account based sales reps who build skills in referral selling convert more than 70 percent of prospects to clients. That’s a powerful one/two punch.
The Road to Referral Riches
Social selling takes us just so far. It’s the job of account based selling teams to generate their own qualified leads. Instead, many delegate responsibility for account based sales development to SDRs and marketing. They rely on these resources to send them leads. Really? Did any top account executive ever sit back and wait for leads to come in?
Every sales leader and rep searches for that “edge” in sales. What differentiates us from all the rest? How can we get in before our competition?
Asking for referrals from clients, colleagues, and extended networks sets account based selling teams apart from their competitors. Referred sellers get in early—before prospects have even identified a need. They arrive with trust and credibility already earned. They also have inside information from their referral sources that no one else gets—how decisions are made, who the influencers are, people to watch out for, budgets, and timeline. So, they’re perfectly positioned to collaborate with their prospects and craft solutions that address significant business challenges and get results out of the gate.
When your team has that kind of relationship with prospects, the competition doesn’t stand a chance. That is, if the competition even gets a meeting. More than likely, they’ll still be pitching strangers on social media and waiting for marketing to send them leads.
Take Online Conversations Offline to Seal the Deal
Social media is a great place to begin relationships by sharing content and engaging in digital conversations. But when it’s time to do business—or to ask for referrals—it’s time to schedule a phone call or a meeting.
Even in our technology-driven world, nothing replaces a phone call, a handshake, and in-person interaction for both building and maintaining relationships. No matter your industry, prospects still make decisions based on the strength of their relationships with your team. There’s a saying among salespeople that customers buy with emotion and justify with fact. If customers don’t like us or don’t feel comfortable with us, we won’t get their business. And we certainly won’t get referrals.
A referral introduction to a prime prospect guarantees a meeting, and there’s a 70 percent chance that prospect will become a customer. Nothing beats asking for referrals to blow past your numbers. But to get these results, referrals must be your primary outbound prospecting strategy.
Account Based Selling Teams Stay Connected
Current clients are the best possible referral sources. They know your team and value your product or solution. Treat them right, and they’ll introduce your account based sales reps to decision-makers across their companies. But treating them right means staying in touch, and not just when you need something. It also means reps must occasionally make the effort to have real-world conversations.
A sales VP once told me it’s important to see “the whites of a client’s eyes.” You may not think of your prospects or customers as merely numbers that bring your team closer to quota, but they can easily feel like it if you don’t get face-to-face on a frequent basis.
Though it’s ideal to meet in person, it’s not always realistic, especially if your clients are spread out across the country or around the globe. What else counts as “face-to-face”? Any connection you make when you’re not typing. Phone, video, in-person—they all count, but at different levels. If you can’t meet in person, picking up the phone or connecting through video are close seconds. What’s not even a close third, fourth, or 10th? E-mailing, texting, or sending messages via social media.
If you have a big-deal prospect or client, get off your ass ASAP. Your competition is probably still fooling around with technology. You show up. You win! Consider how you spend your time and the type of payoff you want. Get that introduction and clinch your referral sale!
A version of this post originally appeared on No More Cold Calling.