One of the biggest challenges that I see most sales organisations and salespeople have – in this challenging era – is growing a good quality pipeline. Finding good quality prospects without putting an prohibitive investment of time and effort into sourcing them is a massive issue. Most prospecting programs I see generate poor quality leads when they get a lead worth pursuing they are starting from scratch with no relationship or trust.
To source an answer to this challenge I went looking for some prospecting experts. I was delighted to find one of the best, Joanne Black, America’s foremost authority on referral selling
So I asked her for her recommendation to overcome this challenge.
Her answer: “…. receiving a referral introduction from someone our prospect knows and trusts”.
She went on to explain why this was by far the best way to build quality pipeline. And it turns out it it takes more than simply asking for a referral. It takes planning, a systematic approach and consistent execution. Yet the results are worth it – they can be extraordinary.
Watch or read the interview below to get insight into referral selling and achieving a meeting with your dream prospects in one call.
We will follow up this interview with a series of interviews with Joanne to learn more on how to generate referrals more effectively – stay tuned.
John: Welcome back Strategic Selling Group members and all the others watching this video – I’m delighted to have Joanne Black with me!
Joanne: Thrilled to be here, John – I travelled a long way!
John: You did, all the way to Sydney to talk to us, how about that! Joanne, I’m really delighted to have you, because I’ve read your books and I understand what you’re saying, and I really want to share some of that with the audience because you’ve got some really good messages.
The biggest challenge that I see most sales organisations and salespeople having in this day and age is growing a good quality pipeline, finding prospects without putting an enormous effort into getting them, and then finding when they do get them they’re not good-quality prospects. What’s your number one recommendation to try and overcome that challenge?
Joanne: I bet this isn’t a surprise to you, John, but receiving a referral introduction from someone our prospect knows and trusts.
Joanne: Yes, why is it important? It has to do with the challenges sales leaders and their teams are facing today. The number one challenge that I hear from everyone is getting that consistent stream of only qualified leads. Because otherwise it’s a waste of time if they’re not qualified.
John: I know as a salesperson, the numbers of leads that I see other salespeople get and I’ve gotten in the past, and you spend a lot of time trying to qualify these leads, and yet in most cases you find that they’re not a lead at all. Somebody has given somebody a card and whatever and it just doesn’t make sense.
Joanne: It makes no sense at all. You need to get those qualified leads in the pipeline. In fact, I had one client say, “Joanne, all our leads in the pipeline are qualified. The problem is we don’t have enough of them.” That means that our sales teams need to get meetings at the right level with their decision makers. The other challenge that sales teams have, and it’s been researched, is that their sales cycle is too long, they’re not differentiating themselves from the competition, and that’s a huge problem because today everybody sounds alike.
John: They do, particularly you get a million emails and phone calls coming in cold, and I know them… I’m being sold to all the time and I’m very quick to put that phone down, I pick it up and takes a second or two. I know this is another one of those cold calls coming in and put the phone down before they even speak.
John: That’s right.
Joanne: I sit on the delete button and put things in junk, and I unsubscribe and I get even more. I don’t know why, but nobody pays attention to those. You see, when you receive a referral introduction from someone your prospect knows and trusts, everything changes.
John: An introduction from somebody that knows and trusts both you and the person you want to talk to?
Joanne: That’s right. In fact, cold callers, the research shows, it can take 8-15 touches to actually reach the prospect.
John: The people that actually promote cold calling say you must do 10-15, otherwise you’re wasting your time because you’re not going to get through the door!
Joanne: You totally waste your time doing that!
John: Yes, that’s right!
Joanne: Why would I want to spend my time doing that? It’s stupid, it really is. When you receive an introduction, you get the ‘one call meeting’.
John: I’m really looking forward to having a series of interviews with you, because I think it’s going to be valuable to all of us to really understand not just why it’s important but how to go about doing it. Because a lot of people struggle with getting referrals, don’t they?
Joanne: They do – it’s hit and miss, but it’s not a systematic process. Here’s what happens when you get the introduction. Everything changes, because the person you’re talking to wants to talk to you, so you’ll get the meeting. And as one of my clients says, you skip that awkward first date, [laughter] you have a different relationship from the get-go. I have found they tell you the truth, you get the inside track.
Joanne: And if you do have competition, you know about them, you know who it is, you know how the decisions are made, you know who to watch out for, who the influencers are – you get the full picture.
John: I guess most salespeople know this, because when they have had a really good referral – and most salespeople have, even if they haven’t gone looking for them – they recognise that it does make it so much easier. They’ve already got an affinity with this person, this person is expecting that they are there because they do provide value, rather than “I’m going to test this person.” So, why don’t we get referrals, why is there a reluctance?
Joanne: There’s a definite reluctance, because referral selling is the most personal kind of selling we can do. Our reputation is on the line, isn’t it John? We need to perform, we need to take care of our referral source’s contacts just as they would, so the bar is even higher. And then a lot of people feel it’s intruding on a relationship. “Oh, I can’t ask, because after all those people are busy and it could just shift the way they think about me, it sounds pushy and arrogant, I’m not that way.” But the biggest reason is this fear that they might say no.
John: I’d like to have you come back over the next 12 months or so – you’ll be in Sydney a lot, won’t you – periodically talk about this subject and really address some of those things you’ve raised. What’s the key message you’d like to make sure we all get in this first interview?
Joanne: If you want to get the one-call meeting, you need to get a referral introduction, and then every lead will be qualified.
John: Hey, sounds good to me, so let’s follow up on that, I’d like to learn how because you’re the expert. Joanne is in actual fact the foremost authority on referral selling in the US, so we certainly have something to learn from you – let’s do that over the coming months!
John: Thanks, Joanne!
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