Find out what you might have missed from No More Cold Calling in recent months.

The most valuable business relationships that salespeople have are those with our clients—the people who know our value, give us repeat business, and provide us with referrals to other great clients. That’s why it’s important to nurture those relationships year-round, year in and year out.

I dropped the ball this year, and I confessed to my mistake in my November blog post: “I Was Neglecting My Customer Relationships.” I was too distracted with other activities like social media, emails, writing articles, watching football, and yes, sometimes, Facebook. I admit those were excuses.

I’ve always said: “Do what’s closest to cash first every day.” Are my clients closest to cash? You bet. They not only help me build my pipeline, but I love working with them.

I’m well aware we can’t do everything we’d like. There are never enough hours in the day, and something needs to give—not forever—but for now. Starting next quarter, I will write one fewer article at quarter-end. I’ll post more updates on LinkedIn and will ask you to comment and tag people you know. This might take the place of one of the two blog posts you receive every month.

None of us grow by staying the same. In that vein, I wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2022—filled with new ideas and exciting adventures. I hope you will also give yourself a bit of a break in the New Year, and also give yourself a career edge by nurturing your most valuable sales relationships: your existing clients.

In the meantime, here’s what you might have missed from No More Cold Calling this quarter:

I Was Neglecting My Customer Relationships

“How do I ask for a referral from customers I haven’t spoken with in two years?” That’s what a client asked me a couple years ago, and I was baffled by his revelation. How can smart, experienced sales reps let their customer relationships wither? Now I know why, because I’ve been guilty of it myself. I was over-the-top busy last year with business I hadn’t expected. It was a pandemic, and businesses were struggling with managing remote sales teams and “pivoting” their focus to survive. My phone started ringing in June, and the rest of the year was a blur. Every client had a singular focus: How do we get referrals from our clients? They understood that existing clients were their best source of new business, and referrals would get them the introductions they needed to drive revenue. In the midst of all this, my husband and I moved. I didn’t have time to catch up with clients and nurture my professional networks. I was busy unpacking boxes and solving problems for new clients. What happened to me is what happens to so many sales teams. We get so busy prospecting and working heads-down on new client projects, that we neglect our current clients. But that can be a big problem, because customer relationships drive referral sales. (Read “I Was Neglecting My Customer Relationships”)

Why You 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 referrals. You can’t automate referral leads. Top salespeople know existing clients are their best source of lead generation for referrals to new clients. 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 the best lead generation source: referral leads. (Read “Why You Can’t Automate Referral Leads”)

Look at the Camera Already [The Importance of Eye Contact in Virtual Sales]

I really hate my webcam. (Ok, hate is a strong word.) I have a good camera, but I don’t like the way I look. (Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t lie.) I feel totally uncomfortable staring into my camera. It feels artificial and not at all authentic, but that’s the only way to make eye contact online. Worse, some applications don’t allow a green screen. Oh, no! I have to clean up my office and get just the right angle for my webcam? A total pain, if you ask me. I miss in-person meetings, lunches, and conferences. It was so much easier to build relationships in person. I got to know people professionally, as well as personally. We went from shaking hands to looking at a camera. Our new way of building relationships was Zoom. (It even became a verb.) Many companies survived and others thrived during the pandemic, but they forgot to enable their sellers to build relationships via video. If virtual sales training was ever needed, this was the time. Sadly, it hasn’t happened in most companies. (Read “Look at the Camera Already [The Importance of Eye Contact in Virtual Sales]”)

Small Business Leaders Don’t Want to Learn How to Sell

October was National Women’s Small Business Month in the U.S.! I know it seems like there’s a month for everything, but this is certainly one worth celebrating. Closing the gender gap, here and abroad, has been slow, but it’s also been steady. Just consider that in the 1960s, women couldn’t get a credit card, serve on a jury, take birth control, get an Ivy League education, or even hope for workplace equality. Now imagine a woman owning a business in the 1960s. Some extraordinary women made it happen, but they were few and far between. Not today, though! (Read “Small Business Leaders Don’t Want to Learn How to Sell”)

How to Actually Unclog Your Sales Pipeline

Turning down new business isn’t easy, but it just might be the best decision you’ll make for your sales team. One way to ensure you can respond quickly when prospects and clients need you is to stop taking on customers who aren’t worth your time.

You see the warning signs a mile away—prospects who push you on price, threaten to take their business to your competitors, make unreasonable demands, don’t return phone calls, and masquerade as decision-makers when they have no real buying authority. Yet, they expect fast, complete, and reliable delivery of your service. These are the “pain in the ass” (PITA) prospects in your sales pipeline. And if you’re not careful, they could easily become PITA clients. This is exactly when you should be turning down new business. (Read “How to Actually Unclog Your Sales Pipeline”)

Starting a Small Business? It Doesn’t Have to Be So Tough

I knew nothing about starting a small business. Luckily, the economy was great in 1996, and my niche was referral selling (still is), so I at least knew how to build a small business sales pipeline. My company took off quickly—almost too quickly. Why? I didn’t have time to develop a plan. A new business checklist would have been a lifesaver. Now my advice for anyone starting a small business is this: However long you think it will take, double it. I also advise them to meet Melinda Emerson, the SmallBizLady. She is THE small business expert, a speaker, author, podcast host, and creator of the Small Business University. Her post, “12 Things You Should Know Before Starting Your Own Small Business,” should be a required read for any new entrepreneur. Three of the insights on Melinda’s list really jumped off the page for me, because they are relevant to anyone starting a small business—anytime, anywhere. (Read “Starting a Small Business? It Doesn’t Have to Be So Tough”)