Congratulations! You’re a new salesperson. You have no contacts, little…if any…industry experience, and the clock is ticking. You’ll have a grace period for awhile while you are being trained, but at the end of the day you’ll have a number to hit. You better start filling that pipeline…and fast. The only problem is that you hate cold calling, whether it be on the phone or in person. You search for alternatives.

That’s the reality for 90% of the sales workforce. It’s a high turnover profession that gets gutted frequently, especially when the economy turns sour. The top 10% who have been at it for awhile are safe. They’ve had the time to build a client base, learn their industry, and make a name for themselves. They have the ability to use referral techniques for one simple reason. They already have customers. You don’t. You need to get to work.

Since you hate cold calling, you pick up a book like “Sales Sucks” or “By Referral Only”…or some other guide that tells you what you want to hear. Wow! This is great! Within these pages lies the secret that will cause prospects to flock to my door.

You’ll hear such tactics as:

1. Wear a nice suit. You’ll project professionalism and success. If people think you’re a pro, they’ll want to buy from you.
2. Put on your business card that you work “by referral only.” The prospect will be impressed by this, and think you must be a hot commodity.
3. Don’t go to networking events. There aren’t any decision makers there anyway, and you’ll run into the same people who are just looking for leads themselves.
4. Invest money in PR firms so you’ll have releases with your name on them that you can share with your customers. Or, join a site that lists you as an expert for reporters to find you to quote in their stories.
5. Produce a website that features you, and not your company. Drive a TON of traffic to it, and the leads will come pouring in from prospects seeking your solution.

There’s more advice in the same vain. Unfortunately, it will all lead to you down the path of being broke and fired.

Of course you should dress nicely. If you don’t inherently know this, please smack yourself in the head. However, I would argue that there are parts of the country and industry segments where a suit will work against you. Working a rural area? Are you in a “blue collar” industry? If so, showing up in a suit may cause prospects to run, since the only people that ever show up dressed like that are the IRS.

Put “by referral only” on your business card? Huh? If you work by referral only, than why do you even need a business card? You weren’t referred to me, so why are you handing me a card that says you were?

Yes, it’s true. CEOs don’t go to networking events. They also don’t answer their phone or read many emails. Sometimes you have to get to know “the person who knows the person.” They might be at the Chamber event. It also gives you a great opportunity to hone your presentation skills, as many of these events allow you to talk about your company in front of the entire group.

When you’re new in sales, investing a ton of money in PR firms and websites is a fool’s errand. First of all, when you’re new you don’t have any money because you haven’t made many sales. The last time I checked, new salespeople aren’t being offered six figure salaries. It takes a boatload of money to drive traffic to your website. Do you even know how to do it? I’ve seen salespeople try this approach using things like AdWords...with ZERO return. There is just too big a sea of sites to reasonably expect that your brand new one will have any relevance for a long time. There’s also the minor inconvenience that your company probably would frown upon you doing it anyway.

My advice? Pick up the phone. Stop by the business. The dirty little secret of the top 10% that can produce an abundance of referrals is that they started out by prospecting. A lot. Twelve hour days…100 calls a day…6-7 days a week…for years. I have yet to see a top salesperson that didn’t pay that price to get where they are.

You’ll be better served honing your skills at cold calling than by trying to avoid it. Art Sobczak’s books are a great place to start.

I would agree with the Referral Gurus that no prospect likes a slick salesperson that spends the entire call using closing techniques and deception. That’s not what I’m advocating in the slightest.

Here’s what you should do.

1. Know your products or services inside and out.
2. Know your industry inside and out.
3. Start thinking like a business person rather than a sales person. How will your services help the prospect’s ROI?
4. Ask poignant, relevant questions.
5. Lose the scripts and techniques. Focus on being a catalyst for real conversations that uncover if you can truly help a prospect. If you can’t, don't be afraid to be honest, and move on.
6. Read everything you can. Write even more.

If you’re good at what you do, you should have no fear of reaching out to prospects you haven’t been referred to. After you’ve had some success, referrals will come. However, there is no magic bullet. You’re going to have to put in the time and do the hard work. You’ll get pieces of business from a variety of sources – cold calling, networking, your company’s website, phone calls into your employer, dropping off business cards, and yes, referrals.

Concentrate on getting opportunities and then exceeding expectations. Before anything else, you need to create dialogue and fill your pipeline. Once you’ve created them, focus on executing perfectly.

Author's Bio: 

Dave Eisley has over 15 years of experience in building high performing sales teams. His experience in startups, franchise development, and inside and outside sales in both residential and commercial settings have put him in front of thousands of salespeople. He knows what works, and more importantly, what doesn't.