Let’s set the record straight: There’s no such thing as a warm email, a warm phone call or even a warm knock on the door. A call is either hot or cold — period.

Wake up from your warm call fantasy. Thanks to the Internet and social media, there’s a new version of what I call the “warm call fantasy.” It goes like this: You’ve researched prospects on social media, identified trigger events and gathered information. Perhaps you’ve even discovered mutual connections on LinkedIn. So you send emails making the business case for why these prospects should talk to you. You really believe you’re not cold calling, because you know all about them and even have a few “friends” in common. You’re sending “warm” emails, right?

Wrong! Unless you have secured a referral introduction from a mutual connection, your lead is freezing cold.

Forget warm, get hot. You know very well that cold prospects don’t want to hear from you. Just consider how many cold prospecting emails you receive each day. I bet you do the same thing I do: hit “delete.”

Attempting to connect with prospects you don’t know on social media is just as pointless. But social sites do offer a great way to identify mutual contacts who might provide you with referrals. Before you start name dropping, reach out to your referral source and make sure that person actually has a relationship with your prospect.

Explain why you want to meet your prospect and ask for an introduction. (Hint: Don’t use LinkedIn’s automated introduction request. Those are easy to ignore, and you’ll lose out on the chance to check in with referral sources and nurture those valuable relationships.) When you have a referral introduction from someone your prospect knows and trusts, your lead goes from ice cold to hot, hot, hot.

So before you dive into social-media prospecting, take a moment to think about how you utilize this resource and take careful aim before you hit “send.”

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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.