canstockphoto24620278Face-to-face matters in referral selling.

“We need to postpone our deal until next quarter.”

Yikes! No sales leader wants to hear that. It could wreck the company forecast and commissions.

What could reps have done differently? Maybe nothing. Sometimes deals are out of our control. A company gets acquired, the economy tanks, the sales leader quits, the sky is green … or whatever.

But sometimes we can change things. Reps can’t move a deal along? Client keeps stalling? Someone needs to get in that client’s face. Face-to-face, that is.

Strong relationships are why clients buy—and why we get referrals.

Relationships Still Rule

In-person meetings aren’t luxuries. Even in our technology-driven world, nothing replaces a handshake and in-person interaction for both building and maintaining business relationships.

Whether a business is ultrahigh tech or low tech, the most important business decisions customers make are still based on personal relationships. There’s a saying among salespeople that customers buy with emotion and justify with fact. If customers don’t like us or don’t feel comfortable with us, we won’t get their business. And we certainly won’t get referrals.

Every sales leader and rep searches for that “edge” in sales. What differentiates us from all the rest? How can we get in before our competition? It’s actually easier today than ever before. Yes, you read that correctly. Social media and other so-called sales productivity tech tools have distanced us from prospects and clients, instead of bringing us closer together. Salespeople stay glued to their computer screens, and many reps actually believe technology can do their jobs for them. Wrong!

That’s why sales reps who build strong relationships come out on top. While your competition is still fooling around with technology, your reps can change the game.

A referral introduction to a prime prospect guarantees a meeting. Referral selling gets reps to their decision-makers before competitors know what hit them. Reps get the inside track on prospects; your sales process shortens; and they convert prospects into clients well more than 50 percent of the time. Nothing beats referral selling to blow past your numbers. But to get these results, referrals must be your primary outbound prospecting strategy.

Win the Numbers Game

One of my clients had a potential deal with a major prospect, but she couldn’t get the decision-makers on the phone. I strongly recommended she schedule an in-person visit. Fast-forward two months. She not only met with the potential buyers; she made a presentation to 60 people and has four strategic projects in the pipeline. Elated, she called me to say thank you. The personal visit sealed the deal.

One summer, I tacked a 60-mile drive onto the end of a vacation to meet with a prospect. That business-development trip resulted in two speaking engagements—opportunities I would not have gotten without taking time to visit and build a new, mutually-respectful relationship.

I just flew to Denver to meet with Dean, a prospect. We’d known each other for several years, but we’d never met. Wow, what a difference that meeting made! He invited me into his sales meeting to speak with his team about how to get referrals and boost their numbers. We scheduled an introductory webinar and a roll-out next quarter.

Once I booked the date with Dean, I scheduled six other meetings—some with colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while. One of these colleagues introduced me to her client, and we immediately scheduled a meeting with the VP and director. That never would have happened without a plane trip and a referral introduction.

Ask yourself and your team: Who do we need to visit? Make that list and give them the travel budget to build relationships that matter.

The Next Best Thing

A sales VP once told me it’s important to see “the whites of their eyes.” You may not think of your prospects or customers as merely numbers that bring you closer to quota, but they can easily feel like it if you don’t get face-to-face on a frequent basis. If you want customers to stick around, you need to let them see you.

Though it’s ideal to meet in person, doing so on a regular basis is not always realistic, especially if your clients are spread out across the country or around the globe. What else counts as “face-to-face”? Any connection you make when you’re not typing on your computer or staring at your smartphone.

Phone, video, in-person—they all count, but at different levels. If you can’t meet in person, picking up the phone or connecting through video are close seconds. What’s not even a close third, fourth, fifth, or 10th? E-mailing, texting, or sending a message via social media.

While video conferencing may be as close as you can get to in-person without actually being in the same room, it’s not, and you’re not. As Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Showing up counts. You don’t have to hop on an airplane. Drive your car; get on a bus; take a train. Just meet in person with every major client and prospect as often as you can. You will accelerate your sales process by at least 30 percent, spend less time prospecting (who wouldn’t want that?), and attract more quality clients.

If you have a big-deal prospect or client, get off your ass ASAP. Your competition is probably still fooling around with technology. You show up. You win!

Want to learn how to ask for referrals in a way that gets results? We’ve bundled our most popular referral-selling audios to get you up and running in no time! Click here to learn more.

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