By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific, moving soon to 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg. Next, Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise. Last time, Jim Keenan. We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year.
I’m excited to share highlights from episode 05 when I spoke with Joanne Black. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and coming soon, subscribe on iTunes.
Matt: Let’s do it again! It feels like we were just here, and now we’re back. I’m so excited. This has been such a fun journey—we’re just getting started. As I mentioned, we started Sales Pipeline Radio late last year, 2015, and have had some amazing guests, great conversations. We have a ton of great conversations coming up as well. We’ll highlight some of our upcoming guests, but I’m really excited to feature today a good friend of mine, a friend of ours in general. She’s been very generous with her time when she’s made her way into Seattle.
Joanne Black, who is the founder of No More Cold Calling and has written a book on the topic. We’re going to talk a little bit later about a Referral IQ quiz that she has. Let me just introduce her this way: If you’d like to reach every buyer that you care about in one call, if you’d like a consistent stream of leads, if you’d prefer your conversion rate from prospect to client to be something closer to 50%, then I think you’re going to like Joanne’s talk today. She’s written two books. She’s owned her company for 20 years. She’s won multiple awards for her social media presence. When she’s not working, she likes to hike, she likes to swim, she travels the world. I think my mom might argue this: She spends a huge amount of time with the most amazing grandchildren in the world. Joanne, I’m not doubting your claims on this, but please welcome from San Francisco, author, speaker, and occasional sales contrarian, Joanne Black. Joanne, thanks for joining Sales Pipeline Radio today.
Joanne: Thanks, Matt! What a great intro. And yes, it’s all true.
Matt: Well, I believe it’s all true. I also know that no parents have ugly children from their perspective as well. So we have opinions going in all directions, but I have no doubt that your grandchildren are amazing. We could probably spend a half hour talking about that, but maybe we should talk about referral sales instead.
Joanne: That sounds perfect because that’s what I love, and everybody needs to hear about it.
Matt: Absolutely. Well, I think we live in such interesting times from a sales standpoint. We hear people say that the buyers are different. We hear people say cold calling is dead. We hear people say, “You should not be selling, you should be helping.” And one of the things I’ve found true in my own selling efforts as I build pipeline for my own business is that my favorite technology and the tool that I use the most and benefit from the most is the telephone. One of the books that you’ve written is literally called Pick Up The Damn Phone, which I love. Talk a little bit, just kind of set the stage for us: Why did you name that book what you did? And why is referral selling so important?
Joanne: My first book, Matt, as you know, is No More Cold Calling, and it’s all about how we build a referral business. I wrote the second book, Pick Up The Damn Phone subtitled “How People, Not Technology, Seal The Deal” for just that reason. I was alarmed by how technology is taking over our lives. Sales people said to me, “Uh, Joanne, I don’t need to talk to anybody. I can just sit here typing away.” You and I both know, Matt, that people do business with people; technology can’t do our job for us. It’s a wonderful tool, but it’s just that.
Matt: I totally agree, and your book and your teaching and writing has really inspired me and I know many others to make better use of the telephone, make better use of relationships we have. I know it was your birthday a couple days ago, so Happy Birthday a little belatedly. I’ve been using a basic tactic for a little while now. I get my little emails from Facebook every morning that tell me whose birthday it is. I used to just send an email or say “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, but that becomes a morning call list for me now. Nine times out of ten I just end up leaving a voicemail, but I hear about those voicemails for months, days, weeks afterward. It makes a huge impression, in part because not enough people are using it anymore, and it really doesn’t take that much more time.
Joanne: Everybody knows how to use the phone. It doesn’t crash, typically. And I loved your phone call because you picked up the damn phone and called me and said “Happy Birthday.” It was wonderful. You made my day.
Matt: I appreciate that. You talk about this “one-call meeting,” and I think for a lot of sales people, when they think about a one-call close or getting a conversion in one call, it sounds almost too good to be true. But I’ve seen it done, I’ve seen you give dozens of examples on it. Talk a little bit about what you mean by getting referrals and having that turn into that one-call meeting.
Joanne: Clients have told me that the biggest amount of time sales reps spend is prospecting. And, Matt, you and I hear this all the time, that it takes 8-12 touches or 6-15 touches to ever reach a decision maker. Whatever the number is, it’s a lot. It’s more than one. And the biggest challenge sales people face is getting a meeting with a decision maker. I do polls on every webinar, 20 years I’ve been doing this, and I ask clients, “What’s your biggest challenge?” There are two: The first is getting a meeting, and the second is getting a consistent stream of qualified leads.
And the way so many people are going about this today is through email, through social media. They just reach out that way, and there’s these clever titles for emails to get people to open them. We know what they’ve done, if they’ve seen it, if they’ve clicked, all of that. To me? Total waste of time. And that’s all we have. So think about it this way: When you receive a referral, which means someone that prospect knows and trusts has introduced you, you always get the meeting. It’s really simple. That’s the one call meeting. And then it’s up to us to take it from there.
Matt: Yep, absolutely. Talk about the idea of reinventing referrals a little bit. I think everyone has a different idea of what a referral is, how you get it, how you define it. What is your definition of a basic referral?
Joanne: You receive an introduction, and that does not mean you get a name. If you say to me, “Joanne, you really should call Paul,” and you tell me all about Paul, I could write an email, I could call Paul and say, “Oh Matt Heinz suggested we talk.” Now, sometimes that works. I don’t deny it, but think about the power if you write to Paul or call Paul and say to him, “You told me that you have certain challenges in your business, and one of them is getting to prospects as soon as possible. I’d like you to talk to Joanne Black.” That is power because you’re linking a problem you’ve heard with a solution I have. In my experience, I’ve gotten every single one of those meetings. I get the phone call. I’ve gotten even a CEO of a Fortune 500 company because one of his key clients introduced me. So it’s not just a name; it’s getting that introduction.
Matt: Absolutely. It’s so powerful when you can get that. It seems to me it’s another reason to organize the contacts you have in a way you can use them. A lot of people talk so much about social selling these days. For me, one of the reasons why LinkedIn is so important to me isn’t because I want to send messages. It’s so that I have a better record of where my connections are. I’m better able to identify those places to get referrals within LinkedIn. I know you’re a big proponent of this, and I am too. I never use LinkedIn’s referral request forms because those come across as cold. I simply use LinkedIn as a source of knowledge to know then who to pick up the phone and ask for that referral. Talk a little bit about how you recommend people organize their network and organize their relationships so that they’re set up to take better advantage of referral selling.
Joanne: I agree with you, your process. So what happens today so many times is that you’ll get a referral introduction request, and it is arrogant. I’ve had people say to me that they’re really annoyed (and I’m toning down that language). Someone actually asked them, and today we don’t know if they actually know that person, because there were days, and still are, when people accept every LinkedIn invitation. The other thing is, you don’t know everything about that person. You can look at my LinkedIn profile. You don’t know who my next-door neighbor is. You don’t know who my college roommate is. You don’t know who I used to work with and know really well. You don’t know who my brother-in-law is. You don’t know who my kids are and where they work. There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me.
But the big thing is with LinkedIn that, when you’re asking for a referral, you’re automating a relationship. You cannot automate relationships. You pick up the phone, you have a conversation: number one question, do you know Matt Heinz? Well yeah I know him. And then I’m going to find out all about you. I’m going to learn what’s important to you, what you’re like, how I should talk to you, and then I’m going to ask for the introduction. If he doesn’t know you, then I want to find out who else he knows, and I’ve had that happen.
I reached out to someone, and his business partner says, “Oh Jim accepts every LinkedIn invitation.” He did not know the person I wanted to meet, but then he said to me, “Joanne, tell me what you’re looking for.” And he introduced me to someone else. For sales people, it’s about the connections we make and the relationships we build, the conversations we have. We need to pick up the damn phone and have that conversation and then find out how we can help the other person. This is a two way street…
Matt: And the conversation part is really important. I think there’s a lot of people in sales and business development and other industries and categories that aren’t patient enough and/or don’t value enough building the relationship before they get into the discussion of business. I really like Steve Richard, who is one of the cofounders of Vorsight out in the D.C. area. I learned this from him, maybe he learned it from someone else, the three by three method.
Before you make a call, before you engage with someone, take at least three minutes and find up to three things of interest about that person. It could be things you have in common, it could be interests of theirs that you think are interesting. And so, if it’s things in common, you have something to talk about. If it’s something of interest to them, it’s something you can ask them about that they are going to want to talk about. Even that alone, it’s not even just breaking the ice, it’s the ability to connect with someone on either common interests or interests of theirs, which shows that you’re interested in them. Even with a warm introduction, that’s still an important aspect of relationship building, is it not?
Joanne: It is, but here’s the trap: So many people think if they do what you just said, that all they need to do is reach out and talk about what they read on the profile, and that’s not what a referral is about.
Matt: I would agree with that. You probably get this all the time, but people that I’m connected to will say, “Hey it looks like you know someone. Will you make a referral for me?” And if I know them and I know the next person, my answer is usually yes. I’m happy to connect people if there’s some mutual value, but what I’ll do is I’ll ask them to write me a sentence or two that I can use to make the request. Oftentimes what I get back is, “Hi Joe, I want to introduce you to so-and-so.” And then they give me this line that’s like, “They’re product does x, y, and z.” So either they expect me to do the introduction for them based on a product description, or there’s clearly no interest in the individual or any attempt, even, to align behind some kind of need or outcome. They just want to go right for the demo. I assume maybe some people make and get introductions that way. I tend to think that will give you not the 50% response rate that you’re talking about here.
Joanne: If I’m going to introduce you, I need to know the business reason to introduce you. I don’t really care about your products. And I say to people, I don’t care about you, nobody cares about you. They just care about what we as sales people can do for our buyers. That’s all that matters. No pitching. And you see pitching today ALL the time. Right? Matt, I know. I’m on social media. I got three emails today, “Oh I love reading your posts…” and then it goes into a pitch. Now, if they love my posts and know what they do, they know I only work through referrals. So why in the heck don’t they find someone that I know that can introduce us? But they don’t bother.
Matt: We got a lot more questions, a lot more content here with Joanne Black from No More Cold Calling. You can check her out at nomorecoldcalling.com. We’re going to talk a little about social selling. We’re going to talk about her Referral IQ quiz that is awesome. I recommend everyone take advantage of that. We’re going to take a quick break and be right back.
This has been so much fun to do. We’ve got some amazing guests coming up. In two weeks we have Meagan Eisenberg, who is the CEO of MongoDB. If you don’t know Meagan, she is, dare I say, a titan in the B2B marketing and marketing technology world. She’s been innovating on a number of fronts on the marketing tech side. After Meagan we’ve got some great guests. We’ve got Josiane Feigon, who I know our guest today, Joanne Black, knows very well. Josiane is an inside sales expert and has just published her latest, 2016 inside sales predictions. And then finally, very excited to have Aaron Ross, who many people know is the author of Predictable Revenue. He is just now publishing his new book update to the methodology that helped Salesforce.com grow so significantly and that so many teams have been replicating in their sales environment.
Today we’re talking about referral selling with Joanne Black. And Joanne, I’ve been through your Referral IQ quiz, I love it. But I’d love to have you give people a description of what it is and what they’re going to get out of going through it.
Joanne: Sales people and sales leaders need to take the quiz. Here it is: It’s 14 yes or no questions, very easy. It should take just a couple minutes to complete. And it has all of the steps that are necessary to run a referral business. A lot of people say, “Well, it’s not that difficult.” I’d say it’s not difficult—it’s simple, but it’s not easy.
What’s happening today, so much, is sales leaders are saying to their teams: “Oh, just go get referrals.” Of course, everybody knows how great they are, right? We convert more than 50% of the time, we get the meeting, we don’t have competition, sales process shortens, all those great things. But they’re telling people instead of following the steps it takes to build a referral business. Now, with the quiz, again, it takes a couple minutes, answer yes or no. immediately, you will get your answers and recommendations. But beyond that, you will be able to see the aggregate of everybody else who has taken the quiz in a graph format- blue and green. Love it. Quick and easy.
Matt: That’s great. That’s awesome. I think it’s important to remember that. I think it’s easy for people to take referrals for granted, honestly. The concept has been around for a long time. People know it can have a huge impact on their business. Talk about creating systems for referrals. Talk about how people can make asking for referrals and getting referrals more of a system and a habit either for themselves or for their organizations.
Joanne: It starts with the sales leader or the CEO. It doesn’t matter what size the business. It’s like anything worth doing. The leader has to commit to referral selling. And what that means is that referral selling has to become the number one outreach for prospecting. Everything else stays the same. We still have our website, our emails, our nurturing, all those good things. We have the inbound, but for outbound, as a sales person it’s my responsibility to generate my own referrals, my own leads, and leverage the connections I have. That’s number one—it needs to be a priority. And you’ll notice, Matt, that word is singular.
And then the next is, there’s a skill component that people don’t realize. There’s a way to position what we do and the way we ask that gets us the introduction. It makes us comfortable asking. And then, to really have a referral program stick, we have to reinforce and coach those skills, which means we need to implement, because if we don’t do that, nothing will change. So: strategy, skills, implementation. Those are the three steps.
Matt: I love that framework. Let’s talk a little more about the implementation piece, because I think too often, when we have a new idea, new methodology (could be new set of messaging or new script or new campaign), we roll those out in a sales meeting and hand those off to people and expect them to go do it. I don’t know of any other industry that does that. I can’t imagine handing a musician a new piece of music and sending them out into Carnegie Hall. I can’t imagine handing a script to an actor and saying, “Opening night is tonight. Knock yourself out.” I think practice is an important part of becoming better sales people, becoming better professionals, becoming more confident in what we are doing.
Is that important in becoming more comfortable asking for referrals as well? Is that a skill that is not just taught but also learned through practice?
Joanne: You nailed it. And it’s like anything—you and I have talked about this. Every athlete, any performer has a coach. And a coach will continue to refine skills, keep people on track. But here’s what people have told me: They want the accountability, and sales executives and sales managers today are just too busy. They need someone from the outside just to hold their feet to the fire. “This is what you’re going to do. What are your goals? How are you going to implement it?” And it works. The accountability piece is huge.
I start work with a new client next week, and I was speaking to one of the founders this morning. And what he said to me is, “We wanted to bring you in and work with us before we tried something that didn’t work and really messed up.” And so it’s also about setting metrics. We have metrics for referrals, and it’s not just about the results. It obviously is, and it’s different for every client. It could be they want new clients, it could be new verticals, it could be new projects with an existing client. But the big thing is, we need to measure activities as well as results. If I’m not out there asking and getting the meetings and getting the introductions, I won’t have the meetings.
Matt: We’ve got about 5 minutes left in our program today. We’re listening to Joanne Black from No More Cold Calling. You can check her out at nomorecoldcalling.com and in particular, you can find her Referral IQ quiz there. Joanne, how is everything we’ve talked about so far related to social media? And how do you feel about social media referrals in general?
Joanne: I think they’re great when they happen, and I’ve gotten clients that way. And for all the time I’ve been on social media (and it’s a long time), I am beginning to get people reaching out to me. And I actually have one new client that way, and I have two other inquiries. However, I don’t wait for that to happen! In sales, we really want to sell and know that it’s about having a conversation. Then we need to be proactive about asking for referrals.
So here’s an example: The biggest advantage to referral selling in my book is to get in before the client knows they have a need. Think about it: everyone else is tapping away, calling, sending a zillion emails and reaching out through social media, and I’m out there getting introduced to the people I want to meet. They may have a need right now, they may not, but I am having a conversation while everyone else is typing away. Referrals become the biggest competitive differentiator we have. I call it “connecting beyond the click”. How do you have real conversations that seal the deal? Because that’s what we want: the conversation.
Matt: I agree, and I think it goes beyond social media. I think it goes beyond the click. There’s some amazing technologies that many companies are using today to predict future behavior that are mining big data to identify buying signals and trigger events. That can tell you who is potentially sales-ready, whether they’re going to be most receptive to another message. Our response to many of those signals is to send another electronic message, which may get a percent response. I think what I’m taking away from this is more and more we see that—the more Facebook birthday notifications we get, the more social media indications we get, it’s more opportunities to pick up the phone. It’s more opportunities to get offline and have the real conversations that are still and will continue to be the fundamental building blocks of relationships and deals.
Joanne: Absolutely. But people aren’t doing that, Matt. And that’s why with a referral, you have that conversation. You can give me as many predictions as you want. I don’t care. I’m reaching out to every single client, to people I know. I’m expanding my network by attending events, and I am asking for referrals. Here’s the other thing: when we are known as experts in what we do, such as you are, Matt, in marketing… Insurance agents are the same. You have software technologists that are that way. People will go to you because you’re the expert, and that’s how you position yourself. That’s how you get the introduction. I am fortunate because people know I work through referrals, so they will call me. But I don’t stop there. I am out there asking and getting those introductions. That’s my job. I don’t abdicate my responsibility to technology.
Matt: Awesome, well before we wrap up here with Joanne Black, just give us your quick checklist for those who have been listening today who are excited about what referrals could do for them. Give them a to-do list. What are the things they can start doing today to start taking better advantage of relationships that they have?
Joanne: Number one: Take my Referral IQ quiz. It’s on my home page www.nomorecoldcallingcom. Second, take a look at all your current clients. Where do you have the very, very best relationships? It’s not everyone, but I’m sure you can think of some, and it doesn’t matter the number. It could be three, it could be 50. Does not matter. And that is with not just a company but with people. Who are the people with whom you have the very best relationships? Reach out to them. Find out, if it’s a client, what they valued in what you do and ask them for others like themselves if that’s the kind of business you want. That’s step two. Step three is: Take some time and create a business impact of what you do. Remember, I’m going to refer you, anybody is going to refer you, because it’s a good business reason. And it’s not because you’ve been in business for 20 years. It’s not because you have professionals. Everybody says the same thing. How are you different? That’s why I’m going to refer you. Remember: Real sales starts with “Hello.”
Matt: I want to thank our guest, Joanne Black. You can check her out at www.nomorecoldcalling.com I highly encourage everyone to go check that out. Her new book Pick Up The Damn Phone you can also find at amazon.com. You can check out a recording and a replay of this session as well as all our past episodes at salespipelineradio.com All of our amazing past guests as well as our future guests you will find there. Look forward to hearing everyone else and seeing everyone else in two weeks on February 4th. We will have Aaron Ross who will share about his new book, “From Impossible to Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue”.