No More Cold Calling! (Book Excerpt)

In No More Cold Calling, Joanne Black reveals the secrets to her phenomenal success, both in creating her own highly profitable business through one-hundred-percent referred clients and in helping thousands of other sales professionals achieve similar results. Read an excerpt from Chapter 1.

Book Excerpt:

by Joanne S. Black
Warner Business Books (April 14, 2006)

Catch the Referral Spirit

Selling is the best job in the world. We can solve problems for our clients, be instrumental in helping them grow their businesses, engage in robust discussions, expand their thinking, and build amazing relationships. No other job gives us the opportunity to truly connect with others and to plug into the pulse of the economy from anywhere in the world.

Referral selling is the best way to create these vibrant relationships. “Hold the phone!” you might say. “There are lots of things I do that can bring me new customers.” Really? Like attending trade shows, sending direct mail, and cold calling? Most sales professionals will tell you that trade-show leads are next to useless, and direct mail has an average 3 percent return. Cold calling has a 2 percent return for your time. In addition, you usually don’t reach the right people, and your sales cycle drags on for so long that in far too many instances, your contacts will have moved to new jobs before you ever see an order.

Compare that to a typical occasion when you received a qualified referral. What percent of the time did you close the deal? If you’re like most people, it was 80 or 90 percent. No one, and I mean no one, has ever told me it’s less than 50 percent. And take a moment to think about how you felt when you contacted the person who’d been referred to you. You immediately entered into a robust business conversation, you knocked the competition out of contention without the objections you typically receive, and you closed the deal quickly without price resistance. You experienced a taste of the Referral Spirit.

Referral Spirit is the excitement you feel when you’re working with the right customers. You become supercharged when you’re face-to-face or having a vigorous conversation on the phone. You are present, energized, and know you’re doing great work. I want you to have this feeling all the time, and I’m going to show you how.

The Referral Spirit is the glorious part of the world of selling, where having fewer prospects is better, because those new prospects are qualified. That’s the power of referral selling.

Referral Selling Is HOT!

In referral selling you are introduced to people you want to meet and who want to meet you. You create the business opportunity that is yours to win. You are meeting with people who may become your customers or who may be your advocates within their organization. Either way, you are starting with someone on your side.

Success Rate: Your success rate will skyrocket because you will be converting prospects to clients between 50 and 90 percent of the time.

Building Customer Relationships: You will do more business with existing customers, and they will become loyal referral sources for you.

Your Customer Is Pre-sold,so you’ll shorten the sales cycle: You will close your sales faster, because your customers will already know who you are and will want to work with you.

Reducing the Competition: The competition either diminishes or becomes nonexistent, because you are the one who will now set the standard against which others must compete. Because you have an established relationship, your client will quickly share important information with you.

Creating Trust

When a customer comes to you through a referral, you are credible the minute you answer the phone or when the customer walks through your door. You have the kind of robust conversation that you love—learning about the client’s business and ways you can solve his problems. When you’ve been referred, you know that the customer is qualified because you’ve already specified your Ideal Customer. (More about this later.)

Wouldn’t it be great if all of your business came from referrals? Wouldn’t you rather take a sales call than make a sales call? You’ll save time, work with people you like, close deals faster, and, above all, you’ll enjoy yourself. That kind of selling is fun. It’s about caring for customers and always proposing the best solution for them.

Successful Salespeople Don’t Just Happen

Whether you are cold calling most of the time now and getting lucky with the occasional referral or your business is already mostly from referrals, you are going to be a different kind of salesperson after you read this book. Unless your business right now is 100 percent from referrals, you are spending too much time on sales activities that aren’t giving you the payoff you deserve.

I learned an important lesson recently. A participant who attended one of my No More Cold Calling(TM) workshops was the president of a successful company. He had been in business for twenty years, and 98 percent of his business came from referrals. Everyone asked him, “Why are you here?” His answer: “I want to get better, and I want to purposefully attract the kind of clients where we can deliver our best work.” I was reminded again that successful people continue to invest in themselves and their companies. They understand that they can and must always get better.

So, if what you’re doing is working for you, by all means keep doing it. If not, then invest your time in learning a new way of working that will send your sales skyrocketing.

I have been selling and managing sales teams for over thirty-five years, and I have developed definite points of view on many subjects related to sales. My clients tell me that they pay me for my opinions and points of view. I will share many of these insights with you in this book. Feel free to disagree. But in your effort to work smarter, I encourage you to have an open mind.

The Cold Reality of Cold Calling

I define cold calling as contacting someone who does not know you and who is not expecting your call. Cold calls can be made on the phone, in person, by fax, by direct mail, or by e-mail.

How many salespeople really like to make cold calls and are good at it? In my informal research over the last seven years in business groups and in my workshops, when I ask this question to groups that range from twenty to two hundred participants, usually only one or two people raise their hands. Generally, other sales experts have informally confirmed that only about 2 percent of all salespeople enjoy making cold calls. And the funny thing is, even some of them are still attending my No More Cold Calling presentations. So maybe even these cold-calling veterans don’t really love it all that much.

So at least 98 percent of salespeople dislike making cold calls. Yet many salespeople are still cold calling. Why? I hear many responses: “It’s habit,” “I don’t know any other way,” “I actually get clients,” or “My boss makes me do it.”

Here are some comments Fast Company collected from salespeople about cold calling. What is your opinion when you read these statements? (My comments follow each one.)

“I don’t mind getting myself ‘bloodied’ cold calling.”

Really? Why would you want to do this to yourself?

“Cold calling is the sales professional’s mantra.”

Who told you this was the way you had to work?

“Cold calling will never die. It may change, but not die.”

It has died with business-to-consumer marketing. The public is averse to cold callers, and their displeasure will continue to increase.

“Cold calling is absolutely a critical selling tool. It allows growing companies the chance in a lifetime to land a big customer early in the game.”

In fact, cold calling is the least effective way of landing a big customer.

“Cold calling is a good way to fill the pipeline with good quality leads.”

Quality? Cold-called leads are the least qualified, and they’re the ones most likely to die in the pipeline.

“Cold calling is a necessary evil. It gets your name out there so at least a potential customer has some familiarity with your company and what you offer.”

Why do you do things that are “a necessary evil”? Just getting people familiar with your company and what you offer is not making a sale.

“The secret to cold calling is that you have to have a solution for customers.”

It’s not a secret. Every sale requires that we have a solution. What would we be selling if we didn’t have a solution? Underwater basket-weaving lessons?

“The more calls you make, the easier it becomes.”

The same could be said for banging your head against a wall. If you keep doing it, will it hurt less? Will it become easier to do? Maybe, but it’s still a waste of time.

Why We Cold Call

Salespeople tell me that they have many reasons for cold calling.

It’s habit. Isn’t it amazing how you continue to do things that you know don’t yield the results you want? Benjamin Franklin defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

I don’t know any other way. Actually, you do. It’s that really nice thing that happens once in a while when out of the blue a new customer calls because someone referred him to you.

I actually get clients. Sure you do. But if you could get five times as many clients by doing a fraction of the work, would you continue to cold call?

My boss makes me do it. Think of your boss and other seasoned salespeople. Are they cold calling? No. Then why are they asking you to do it? Too many sales managers have made cold calling a “rite of passage.” They suffered through it, so now you have to as well.

My boss can measure my activity. There are metrics for cold calling, so it’s easy to manage. How many times have you heard, “It’s a numbers game.” Let’s examine what those numbers are. People who cold call tell me that if they make one hundred calls, they will actually speak with twenty to twenty-five people, set ten to twelve appointments, and if they’re lucky, close one to two deals.

The “Warm Call” Fantasy

Salespeople tell me all the time that they’re not really making cold calls—they’re making “warm calls.” I don’t agree. A sales call is either cold or hot. We’re deluding ourselves into thinking we’re not cold calling, so we say that we’re making warm calls.

Consider the following situations:

* You call someone because you got the name from a colleague or friend. Cold!

* You call someone and then follow up with a letter. Cold!

* The person’s name came from a specific list. Still cold!

These are all cold calls—the person doesn’t know you and is not expecting your call. Even though you think you’ve been able to avoid sounding like a telemarketer, it’s still a cold call.

In 2003 Huthwaite ( surveyed buyers about their attitudes on prospecting: Ninety-one percent of buyers never respond to an unsolicited inquiry, 88 percent will have nothing to do with cold callers, and 94 percent couldn’t remember a single prospector or message they had received during the previous two years. Obviously cold calls aren’t working. With such dismal results, why would you ever cold call? Why would you even settle for the illusion of a warm call? A call is hot when you have an introduction. Nothing else counts. Nothing else matters.

Moving On

As you use this book, you will begin to shift your relationship with referrals from what many people call “word of mouth” (something that’s always great when it happens: “I just got a call from a new customer who was referred to me”) to something you make happen. It won’t matter whether you are just starting out or if you are already a veteran salesperson or sales manager, part of a large organization or a sole proprietor; in a business with a short or a long sales cycle; in high tech or in consulting; a Realtor who depends on timing or an office-supply salesperson dealing with people who always need what you sell; selling business-to-business or business-to-consumer; or selling face-to-face or on the phone. No More Cold Calling is universal.

Catching the Referral Spirit means that you will consciously and enthusiastically be giving referrals as well as receiving them—referring without expecting that someone will give you something in return. You are generous and truly want to help others. Doesn’t it feel great to put good people together? You bet it does.

The Referral Queen

I am the Referral Queen. I have a banner to prove it, and I travel with my crown and scepter. I have built my business solely on referrals. And yet even when people know what I do, they still ask me how I get my clients. Most people find it unbelievable that I have built a successful business totally on referrals. The fact is, I won’t do business with anyone unless I’ve been referred—whether it’s for business or for personal services.

Because I am always giving referrals, people ask me all the time for referrals to other business services. Finally, I decided to list them on my website under the “Partner” tab. Here is a message that I got from Paula Doubleday (, a graphic artist who helped me when my business was young:

I’ve got a funny story for you. I got a call yesterday from a woman who used to work for a major clothing manufacturer. I did some work for her in 1994. She left to start her own consulting company, and I did her logo and collateral. Then she moved back to New Jersey in ’95. She called yesterday out of the blue. She has three companies now, and they have been working with an ad agency on some new logos but it just wasn’t working. So somebody asks her who did the original logo. And, hey, let’s call her. So she “Googles” me, and what comes up first but your site, Joanne! And on it you’ve been kind enough to put my phone number. So the woman calls me! Thanks for having my name there!

Now it’s time for you to catch the Referral Spirit and make a referral of your own. Think of people you could help by referring them to one of your favorite service providers. It could be personal referrals to your mechanic, massage therapist, or hairdresser. You could make business referrals to an IT consultant, customer relationship management (CRM) solution provider, accounting firm, web designer, sales consultant, or computer software program that’s saved you tons of time.

Share your referrals with others, and they’ll start sharing theirs with you. Connect with people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Find out what they’re doing. You’ll end up with the most excellent resources, and you’ll be richer for the interaction.

Note: To make a change in your life and in the way your company does business, you will need to take action. Otherwise it’s all just talk. So throughout this book you’ll find Action Steps. You don’t have to take them all (some might not even apply to you or your organization). But if you don’t take at least 80 percent of them, there’s not much of a chance you can transition to referral selling.

Here’s your first Action Step:

ACTION STEP 1 Make a Referral Contact one or two people you know, find out what they need, and make a referral.

You will begin to see that referral selling is the only way to build the kind of relationships that create loyal customers who are then thrilled to refer others to you. Think of it as having your own private sales force out there working just for you.

What a concept!

Copyright © 2006 by Joanne S. Black

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