Globalization and technology have made the world seem larger and more impersonal than ever. But somehow people still manage to connect with one another. And they still talk — especially before spending money.

Most buyers start out by conducting research. But when it’s time to narrow down the options, where do they turn? Whether they’re in the market for a new accountant, builder, marketing firm, lawyer, technology solution or bank, most people don’t just pick one at random via Google. They ask the people they trust who it is that they trust.

For companies and salespeople, this is really good news. Because referral selling is, hands down, the most effective and least expensive way to attract and retain new clients.

Relationships still power our lives — and our sales. Want to knock out your competition? Adopt the only sales strategy that will get you meetings at the level that counts, the only one that allows you to arrive pre-sold, having already earned trust and credibility. It’s the only strategy guaranteed to shorten your sales process and help you eliminate sales and marketing costs. And it’s the only strategy that converts prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time.

Think about it. Would you prefer to do business with:

  • Someone who reached out to you via a cold call, or
  • Someone you met through a friend or colleague with whom you have an established, respectful relationship?

It’s really a no-brainer. While your competition plays around on social media, trying to figure out who the decision-maker is, you’re already in the conference room, sealing the deal.

No other sales or marketing strategy delivers such powerful, predictable results. Yet, 95 percent of companies do not have a written referral-selling strategy, written weekly referral goals, a plan to develop referral-selling skills or a system to track and measure referrals. Referrals are the missing link in every company’s business development strategy.

It’s time to make referrals the primary way your company attracts new clients — and to move referrals from afterthought to priority. Fill your pipeline with only hot referral prospects, and you’ll never have to worry about hitting your numbers again.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.