Photo of business people’s hands on top of each otherIs your team too busy drumming up new business to focus on existing customers?

“I’m scared.” That’s what I told an interviewer who asked for my perspective on the future of sales professionals in the next two years. This might sound dramatic, but it’s true. Too many sales teams have lost sight of how B2B sales really works.

Sales organizations today have their priorities all wrong. They task reps with finding new sales leads, building qualified pipelines, and closing deals. It’s all about driving revenue in the short-term. So, as soon as sales reps sign a new customer, they move on to the next target—whomever predictive analytics has identified as the most qualified prospect.

Do you see the gap here? Current clients are the best source of new business. They can help your team get referrals to other divisions within their organizations or to their vast networks of colleagues. Salespeople connect with many people during the sales process, but they leave money on the table when they don’t continue to build those relationships and get referral sales leads.

Old Customers Trump New Ones

This isn’t just my opinion. There’s plenty of hard data proving that current clients are far more profitable than new sales leads.

My colleague, Ago Cluytens—practice director for EMEA at B2B sales training firm RAIN Group—shares many of these compelling stats in his fantastic article, “Why You Need to Get Better at Selling to Existing Customers.” He writes:

Many calls I get are focused on one thing: signing on new clients. New clients are the lifeblood of any organization, so the thinking goes.

Or are they?

There’s a huge amount of evidence that—in reality—most organizations would be far better off by focusing on serving their existing clients better.

Ago lists five research-backed reasons this is true, including:

  1. They have a far higher chance of actually closing.
  2. They are likely to spend more.
  3. They close much faster.
  4. They help increase profits.
  5. They help reduce costs.

Read his article to find out why.

One More for the List

Need another reason existing customers trump new sales leads? Having strong relationships with current customers is the best way to get referrals. Clients know first-hand the value of your products and services, and the expertise your sales reps can provide. Well-served clients will introduce your team to qualified prospects who agree to meetings with just one call. Those clients will sing your team’s praises and “sell” your company to exactly the type of prospects salespeople want to meet.

If potential referral sources haven’t heard from their reps since the day they signed on the dotted line, your team is missing out on its best chance to get referrals.

Want to learn more about generating hot referral sales leads? Check out my video page for tips.

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Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.