Trusted advisor, business partner, collaborator, part of the family—all terms sales pros seek to indicate they are “in” with their customers. Joanne Black, my referral mentor, says these terms are good indicators of referral possibilities. Well, that is…unless  that close of a relationship starts killing referral sales.

I was so proud of being called many of those terms with a long-time client in a very large organization. It took me two years to infiltrate the division, win over the leaders, and equip the team with collaborative selling skills. We had sales increases of 23% in Year 1 and 28% in Year 2. They had even asked me to come and work directly for them.

Yet whenever I asked for referrals or introductions to other divisions, promises were made, and connections were not.

I was more than perplexed. If our company (and me personally) was bringing so much value, why not allow others in their organization to benefit? I finally asked a key member if there was a reason for the lack of connections and she paused before saying, “If they start working with you, then you’ll have less time for us.”

Wow. I was stunned. I was being stalled and kept from introductions within the company.

We talked through her concern and I was able to explain how new relationships would not impact the time, availability, and effort for their team. We discussed that without new clients, we wouldn’t be able to support our infrastructure to continue to work effectively with them either.

A few weeks later a connection was made to another business unit.

What we can do to make sure our clients aren’t afraid to share us with others:

  1. Update clients on capabilities and bandwidth. Our customers don’t know our business and if we don’t update them periodically, they don’t know we are looking to grow or have more capacity.
  2. Stop the “busy” talk. If we always say we are “soooo busy” and it’s tough to get time with us, they may be hesitant to contribute to our stress level.
  3. Continue to sell and serve at the highest level. If your level of service and sales efforts dip, it reduces their confidence in you.

Don’t let getting too close create an internal tug-of-war for your customers that can kill your referral sales. Keep the lines of communication open, expectations solid, and keep asking for those referrals!

Connect with Nancy on LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @salesproinsider for more Timely Tips!

4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.

Click here to access the replay.