By Carol Haig, CPT, and Roger Addison, CPT, EdD

We are delighted to welcome Joanne Black to TrendSpotters this month. A colleague we have known and learned from for many years, Joanne,, is a lifelong sales professional who is an authority on referral selling. Through her company, No More Cold Calling®, Joanne leads workshops, speaks at events, and offers consulting services to private clients. Here at TrendSpotters Central, we believe everyone sells even if the word sales is not in his or her job description. We all need to meet people who have expertise or information that can help us. Joanne graciously contributes her atTract New Business process to the TrendSpotters Open Toolkit (TOT) as a highly effective way to make critical new connections in all areas of our lives.

Genesis of the atTract New Business Process
In her years in sales at several companies, talking with numbers of sales professionals, Joanne found that the best business consistently came from referrals. Statistically, she learned, referrals convert to new business more than 50% of the time. She tested this information with salespeople everywhere, and years later it remains that referrals continue to be the best source of new business.

Surprisingly, though, most salespeople who extol the value of referrals lack a systematic, disciplined process for getting them. Joanne learned that even highly successful sales executives say they are not comfortable asking for referrals. Referrals are personal. Asking for them carries the weight of responsibility, the risk of being too pushy, and the fear of invading someone’s private space.

Joanne considered the gap between this widespread inability of salespeople to ask for referrals and the evidence that referrals reliably produce results. She reflected on what we know of as cold calling–telephoning or visiting someone you do not know to ask for business, and what we term a warm call–where someone gives you a name and you contact the person. Joanne reminds us that a referral is a personal introduction to someone. It is neither cold, nor warm, but actually a hot call.

A referral, whether in sales, in performance improvement, in any profession, is about relationships. Think about it: We refer people to others all the time in our personal lives. We tell a neighbor about a terrific gardener, share our hairdresser’s name with a friend, pass on a math tutor’s name to another parent. Making referrals, or asking for them, for business connections or networking is no different.

Description of the atTract New Business Process
Over the years Joanne has developed and fine-tuned the atTract New Business process for getting referrals. Using the five steps in this process will produce appointments or meetings with 80% of your contacts and will result in sales or desired outcomes with more than 50% of the people you meet.

Asking for a referral is part of a conversation you have with a client, colleague, or friend. While completing each of the five steps in the atTract New Business process is important, the process is not linear. The context of your conversation and your relationship with the person you are talking with will drive the order in which you follow the steps:

  • Tell–This is an explanation of the value of referrals and why you rely on them to build your business or network.
  • Results–Your contact needs to understand enough about your work to explain it to someone else. Describe what you do from your clients’ viewpoint: illustrate it with a client’s story and include the situation, action(s) taken, and results.
  • Audience–Specificity is critical here, so paint a picture of who you want to meet with words; for example, Experienced line managers leading change management initiatives who need project management help.
  • Contacts–Ask for one or two introductions to people who meet the audience criteria you have provided.
  • Thanks–Send a written thank-you to the person who referred you and make a follow-up call later to tell your source how the referral turned out.

Success Story
Joanne tells about a client who was a financial adviser in a small firm. He relied on mailers to generate business and would include a complimentary one-hour consultation to attendees at the frequent seminars he offered. Dissatisfied with the results of his efforts, this client analyzed where his business was coming from. To his surprise, he discovered he was spending 80% of his time delivering seminars, but 80% of his business was coming from referrals. He flipped his business model to focus on referrals, and seven months into his fiscal year had already met his annual goal.

Advice to Users
The atTract New Business process provides a great way to meet new people all the time. Inherent in the steps is the idea of mutual benefit: Referrals are two-way interactions that build relationships that can lead to other valuable connections. Both parties stand to benefit from a referral.

Links to the Performance Technology Landscape
The atTract New Business process supports these principles of performance technology:

R Focus on Results–The process produces a desired introduction to a new contact.
S Take a System view–The five steps in the process result in a referral.
V Add Value–Referrals are opportunities for two people to help each other.
P Establish Partnerships–Referrals build relationships that lead to more referrals for both parties.

Application Exercise
Key to making atTract New Business work for you is to write out your specific details for each of the steps in the process and then practice using them with a trusted colleague or client. Try this:

  • Write a list of no more than 10 people in your professional network that you know well and who will help you out–colleagues, current clients, friends.
  • Start with an in-person conversation with a trusted friend or colleague and talk about how you might help each other.
  • Practice the atTract New Business steps with this person.
  • Say: Who do you know that I should meet?

For more on asking for referrals, see Joanne’s book, No More Cold Calling™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust.

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Contact Carol Haig at or at; contact Roger Addison at