If you take the time and effort to practice the required skills, which are applicable to both cold-calling and referral selling, you will be prepared for any situation and excel at uncovering...

If you take the time and effort to practice the required skills, which are applicable to both cold-calling and referral selling, you will be prepared for any situation and excel at uncovering opportunities regardless of where they lie.

Salespeople typically identify with one method — cold calling or referral selling. The smarter salesperson that builds skills for both selling methods has the most success. 

There are three components to consider when discussing cold calling vs. referral selling:

  1. What is cold-calling and the skills needed to be successful?
  2. What is referral selling and the skills needed to be successful?
  3. What are the ultimate goals of a salesperson?

Effective Cold Calling

Cold calling is unsolicited contact with a potential customer, or prospect, who may or may not know the company or products, and who has not expressed any direct interest. The cold calling method can be done in person or by phone and is often considered quite uncomfortable, and the least favorite aspect of sales, for many salespeople. Generally, there is no relationship between the salesperson and the prospect, there has not been a need identified prior to the conversation, and the salesperson is walking in blind. 

To that end, the salesperson needs to apply significant efforts to get through to the prospect, build a quick rapport, and convince them they can add value to their business. It poses quite a challenge, especially if approached with no real process, or if the salesperson has not had the appropriate training to develop the necessary skills.

The skills that lead to the most success with cold calling include being direct and consistent, providing strong follow up, and having an ability to “read the room.” Being direct doesn’t translate to being aggressive or rude, it is the ability to be purposeful and on point with your message. Are you there to set a meeting? Be clear about that and don’t assume a prospect understands this is your objective. This helps to remove objections, as an example from someone anticipating that you are there to waste their time on the spot with an unexpected meeting. By being clear that you would like to set up a future meeting at a convenient time for them, you can lower their guard and lay a foundation for building a relationship, while improving your chances of getting what you want. 

Consistency and strong follow up — both important skills — go hand in hand. You should exercise consistency when approaching prospects. Do your research ahead of time, be prepared to pivot in the event your elevator pitch isn’t being well received, and use proven word tracks to drive interest when asking for the meeting. Also, be diligent with consistent follow up. Send an email after each conversation or visit, schedule your next prospecting visit, plan your phone follow ups, and continue to email at a consistent interval while including valuable information and offers. Be consistent with your customer relationship management. By doing these things, you will keep your name top of mind with your prospects, while proving to them that you can provide value, and it will guide them toward committing to a meeting with you.

The ability to “read the room” comes from experience. The more comfortable you get with understanding your business and reaching out to prospects, the better you will become at paying attention and picking up on unspoken clues that can help further your relationship and understand what they need. Your prospects want to be heard, they want to feel that their needs are important to you, and they want their time to be respected. Asking questions and paying attention to facial clues when something sparks their interest or acknowledging an elephant in the room to take away an objection are all things that help your prospects feel more comfortable with you, and eventually help you to earn more of their time and business.

Navigating Referral Selling

Let’s switch gears and talk about referral selling and the skills that are beneficial to increase your odds of success. Referral selling occurs when an existing customer connects a salesperson with or provides contact information for a new prospect. Often this happens at the salesperson’s request, and it could be as simple as a name of a business they know is likely to have interest, contact information for someone and approval to name drop them, or it could be that they reach out to the prospect on your behalf to help schedule a meeting. Whatever the means, the key with referral selling is that it initiates with an existing relationship to help you obtain a new relationship with someone they know. 

You may wonder if this situation requires any special skills. It’s so simple, right? It does require specific skills being applied and, surprisingly, a similar set of skills that one would need to be successful at cold calling. Directness, clearly identifying what you have done for the referring party, and your intentions to gain leads. “The solution we implemented for your company has done x, y and z for you. Do you know other businesses that could benefit from the same services? Who can you refer me to?” 

Consistency and strong follow up can help ensure you get referrals. These are the same skills that have helped you satisfactorily maintain your customers and are likely the reasons why they would agree to refer someone they know to you. And finally, the ability to “read the room” will help you identify when the appropriate time is to ask for that referral. 

The Ultimate Goals of Sales 

Salespeople aspire to working all the potential prospects within their territory to uncover opportunities to close business and earn money. No salesperson will know or have a connection to every single prospect within their territory. In order to cover all potential prospects, there are going to be plenty of instances where they need to make a cold call in order to uncover an opportunity with a prospect. Salespeople have the best advantage and opportunity for success when they are open to purposefully approaching all sales leads by leveraging whichever sales method is necessary. If you make the time and effort to practice the required skills, which are applicable to both cold calling and referral selling, you will be prepared for any situation and excel at uncovering opportunities, regardless of where they lie.

Danielle Cumbee is Spectrum Automotive Holdings’ director of sales integration.

Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today