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It’s Still “Who You Know” That Matters


who you knowAn executive at a leading marketing automation company shocked me when I interviewed him for my latest book, Pick Up the Damn Phone! I expected him to extol the virtues of digital marketing. Instead he talked about the power of relationships for sales. “It’s not what you know,” he told me. “It’s who you know.”

When this exec was looking for a new vendor, he spoke to a fellow VP from another company—a friend with whom he regularly meets to bounce around ideas. The two of them trust each other and value the relationship, so the exec didn’t need to shop around. He chose the vendor his friend recommended.

“Relationships like this are how deals get done,” he told me. “When a trusted resource refers you to someone, you take the time to explore the option.”

I couldn’t agree more. People don’t do business with technology. They do business with people they know, like, and trust.

Earn Trust to Win Clients

Building relationships takes time, so it’s important to start demonstrating trustworthiness right out of the gate.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “Trust me”? Uh, huh. Sure.

In an era of economic instability and wrecked public faith in business, trust is no longer the default starting point for skeptical consumers. It must be earned and nurtured over time. That’s why cold calling doesn’t work, and neither does pitching strangers on LinkedIn.

So how do you earn your prospects’ trust and start building relationships that translate into sales? With referral-based selling, half the work is already done for you. Because people your prospects know and trust have vouched for you, you have credibility with them before you even walk into the meeting.

Trust Trumps Technology

When we’ve earned our clients’ trust, not only do they keep coming back for more (even bigger) deals. They also become our most loyal cheerleaders and advocates—spreading the word about our value to their friends and colleagues.

Relationships built on trust give us an edge over our competitors, who often don’t even get a chance to compete. After all, why would prospects bother shopping around if they already know they can trust you?

Marketing automation, social media, and CRM are great tools for organizing the sales process. But at the end of the day, referrals are still the best way to generate qualified, hot leads with ideal clients. Trust trumps technology every day. Technology takes us just so far. Then it’s time to make a personal connection!

Yes, you should have an online presence, utilize social media, and explore the plethora of technology tools available to make your sales process more efficient. But don’t fool yourself into thinking these tools give you a predictable, guaranteed edge, because everyone else is using the same tools.

What will give you an edge is a well-connected, well-nurtured network of referral sources. That’s right—it’s still who you know that counts.

About the Author
Joanne Black is America’s top referral sales expert. With decades of experience across multiple industries and companies of all sizes, Joanne Black’s simple message about using referral selling as the primary driver of sales is one that resonates with sales and marketing audiences around the globe. Visit for more articles, tips, and free resources. You can also find Joanne on Twitter @ReferralSales.

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