When Sandler Training surveyed 1,226 salespeople the only activity they deemed worse than cold calling was getting a root canal.

No one should have to do a job that is almost as bad as dental surgery! There’s a much less tortuous—and much more effective—way to sell. By getting referrals from people your prospects know, like, and trust.

This survey was conducted a few years back, but it’s actually more applicable today. In addition to buying lists, sending direct mail, dropping off brochures at company headquarters (yes, that still happens), or sending spam emails, we’ve added social media into the mix. Salespeople attempt to connect with strangers on LinkedIn and message them with thinly-veiled sales pitches. This all amounts to cold calling. Your recipient has no clue who you are, never invited you to contact him, and probably doesn’t want to hear from you.

No wonder salespeople would prefer a root canal! At least their dentists are happy to see them.

Stop Scaring Off Your Prospects

I usually don’t spend much time bashing cold calling. I prefer to focus on what does work—getting referrals. But I don’t believe anyone should ever have to cold call, and when I read advice from “experts” on this unproductive prospecting strategy, it sends me over the top.

Recently, a blogger shared 10 tips for making better cold calls. She described cold calling as a game. Let’s be clear: Sales is not a game. It is a serious profession that requires skills, confidence, and credibility. Cold calling wastes your time and talent, and makes a mockery of the meaningful impact you could have on your prospects’ businesses.

Cold emails or LinkedIn messages are just as bad. These annoying, impersonal, nonspecific, and unsolicited messages clog up inboxes and drive people nuts. You probably get tons of them. And I bet you delete most or all of them without even bothering to respond. After all, do you really want to hear from people who don’t even know your name? Clearly they haven’t put much time or effort into engaging you.

Stop the Cold Calling Madness

Salespeople often tell me they’re required to make 100 dials a day. If they’re lucky, they might get 20 people on the phone, set eight appointments, and close one deal. That’s a 1-percent return on their time investment.

Yikes!

Imagine if you scored every meeting with one call. Imagine how much more productive you would be if you only talked to prospects who want to hear from you—prospects who already know you’re an expert with valuable ideas, because people they trust have vouched for you. If you want to be an expected and welcome call, start getting referrals.

All the social-intelligence tools in the world are useless without personal intelligence—the ability to build and nurture relationships, and to leverage those real-life connections for referrals. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time annoying strangers.

With relationship intelligence, your salespeople are armed with tools that help them nurture their prospect relationships more effectively than ever. Learn more by downloading the free Salesforce e-book.