What do you suppose the biggest complaint prospects have about salespeople is? If you answered, "they're too aggressive", you'd be close, but wrong. If you said, "they're annoying", you'd also be close, but wrong. Or if you answered, "they're not prepared," you'd be wrong, but not close (these days, most salespeople are - thankfully - more prepared than ever before. I suspect it has something to do with the relative easy availability of information on the internet). The most widespread complaint business buyers have about sales people is that they don't listen to what they are saying. Oh, they may hear. But hearing is not the same as listening; if you don't believe me, stop reading this right now and write down what you hear (I did - and what I hear is the hum of the refrigerator, though I wasn't listening for it).
Too often, amidst the excitement of describing our products (about which we are, typically, enthusiastic) or the sheer thrill of having secured a coveted appointment, or simply our eagerness to get through to "the close", we rush through our conversations and our presentations, giving short shrift to the questions our prospects ask, to the observations they make, and to the objections they raise. Maybe as they are talking we're thinking of the next thing we're going to say. Maybe we're still thinking about that feature we forgot to mention. Maybe we're thinking about the next appointment we might not get to, because this meeting started late. Or the parking meter we have to pay, because the meeting - which started on time - is running longer than we'd planned for. Regardless, we are not actively listening to what our prospects are saying. We are not genuinely listening to what our prospects are saying. And believe me - they can tell.
Don't believe me? Imagine for a moment you're on a first date with someone (for you married readers, think back to when you weren't - but don't let your spouse know!). You sit down to dinner, or coffee, and immediately your date starts talking about him or herself. Realizing, after some time, that s/he has been monopolizing the conversation, s/he stops, and then asks you something about yourself. As you respond, her/his visage reveals that s/he isn't really listening to what you're saying, doesn't really care, and is, you suspect, thinking of what to say next once you've finished talking, or counting the commission from the anticipated sale.
How does that make you feel? How do you suppose that makes prospects feel?
After asking a question (a good question - one that encourages them to talk, to open up and tell you what they're problems, fears, aspirations are), genuinely listen to the answer. By doing so, you'll accomplish two things that will improve your odds of walking away with a sale: 1) you'll learn what the prospect's key issues are, which you can then translate into the right solution, and (2) you'll create an emotional connection with the prospect, who feels better by having been given the opportunity to share her problems with a sympathetic ear - yours (and not that of your competitor).
If you agree that a referred lead is a "better" lead, use the objection-handling methods to help you deal with your own "objections." Once you're able to do so, identify 2-3 customers you're pretty sure would not only be willing to provide a referral, but enthusiastic about doing so. Once you've been given those referrals and discovered that you didn't get your head bitten off for asking, your confidence in asking other clients for referrals will only grow.