trust trumps technology referrals ruleA sales executive at a leading marketing automation company surprised the heck out of me when I asked him about the advantages of technology for salespeople. After all, his company is a leading provider of technology to automate leads. But he spent more than 30 minutes discussing the power of relationships for sales success.

“It’s not what you know,” he told me. “It’s still who you know.” That’s why, when he needs a new product or service, he prefers to get referrals. (A man after my own heart!)

Then he told me about looking for a new vendor. Instead of meeting with a variety of salespeople from top companies, 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 and respect each other, so the exec didn’t need to ask around. He simply chose the vendor his friend recommended.

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

Build Trustworthiness Right Out of the Gate

Building relationships takes time. 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.

So how do you earn your prospects’ trust and start building relationships that translate into sales? When you get referrals, half the work is already done for you. People your prospects know and trust have vouched for you. You have credibility before you even walk into the meeting.

Simplify Your Sales Process—Get Referrals

When we’ve earned our clients’ trust, 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 leads. Trust trumps technology every time. Technology takes us just so far. Then it’s time to make a personal connection!

Yes, you should have an online presence. You should 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.


joanne-black.jpgJoanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling—the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. 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 www.NoMoreColdCalling.com. You can also follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.