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Why Your Sales Reps Can’t Automate Referral Leads 


Everyone loves a good shortcut. We live in microwave time—tapping our fingers because 15 or 30 seconds is just too slow. While there’s much to be said for efficiency, there are no shortcuts when it comes to relationships with customers. And without strong relationships, you can forget about getting referral leads.

Top salespeople know existing clients are their best source of referrals to new clients. So they put in the time to nurture those relationships and stay in the know about what’s happening with their customers—both personally and professionally.

Clients will always take calls from these sales reps, because they provide insights and guidance. They make themselves valuable, trusted business resources. In doing so, they get bigger deals from repeat customers—and they get referral leads.

You Can't Build Relationships on Autopilot

Customers don’t buy your technology, your service, or your products. They buy because of the impact your people have on their businesses. People do business with people, not with technology. But too many reps forget it’s the quality of relationships, and not the quantity of connections, that really count.

The problem is that our society is getting so comfortable hiding behind the technology curtain that many salespeople forget how to have real conversations. Technology dependence has begun to shift our values and our beliefs away from what really makes us human. We believe technology is a panacea. We want to automate almost everything.

Salespeople think the more we automate selling, the better, easier, and more effective their jobs will be. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Text messages with truncated words or 140-character Twitter posts are not the kind of meaningful, effective dialogue that increases sales conversions or gets referral leads.

The art of conversation is your team’s competitive advantage. Conversation is the key to problem-solving and relationship-building, which are critical in sales. These have also become unique skill sets in the digital world.

Build Relationships and Earn the Right to Ask for Referrals
Computers might be better at math, but they don’t come close to what the human brain has to offer in terms of creativity and innovation. That’s why all the sales and marketing automation tools in the world will never replace the power of a knowledgeable, experienced salesperson with a great referral network.

What seals the deal today is the same thing that sealed the deal back in the days of the three-martini lunch—having a personal connection to prospects, understanding what buyers want, and delivering results. Winning in today’s business world means leveraging technology and also learning how to keep it in its place. Don’t forget that technology is only a tool and that salespeople’s greatest sales asset is—and always will be—themselves.

Rather than giving your team lists of names to cold call, or letting them spend their days spamming people on LinkedIn, teach them how to pick up the damn phone, engage with buyers, find out what they really need, deliver it, and then ask for referrals.

Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit



One Response

  1. Thank you for putting into words what I tell my clients – do not act like robots! Automated social media is like being talked to by a robot or be treated as one of the masses.

    People still buy from other people, one person at a time even if the sales meeting takes place over video. Being a trusted advisor, full of knowledge that can help your clients improve their business beats thousands of unknown followers on any media.

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