Here’s a fundamental truth of sales success: Showing up matters. Everyday you show up on the web, on the phone and through video conferencing. But while technology tools can certainly drive business development, nothing beats sitting down with people and talking to them in person, face to face. This may be the one thing your competition isn’t doing.

The value of face to face. Recently, one of my clients — let’s call her “Karen” — invited a couple of clients to lunch with the sole purpose of reconnecting with them and asking for referral introductions. When Karen began the referral conversation, one of her clients said, “That’s great. We can talk about that later. But right now let’s talk about some other projects we want to work on with you.”

Karen walked away from that meeting with some new projects, the clients’ commitment to work with her company and a referral introduction to one of her prime targets.

“Tom” shared a similar scenario. Determined to accelerate his referral business, Tom booked lunches with one client and two potential referral sources. The client committed to additional business with Tom’s company, and both referral sources offered introductions to new prospects.

Nothing beats face to face. Would these business opportunities have happened without face-to-face meetings? Perhaps. But there’s nothing more powerful than breaking bread with someone with whom you have developed a strong business relationship. You get a chance to catch up, share valuable information and discuss work you’ve done with other clients. And you can figure out how to help each other.

Once you get to know people and they get to know you, you’ll discover many opportunities to provide (and ask for) referrals. Perhaps you could refer someone to a potential client, alliance partner or someone in a similar business. By providing referrals to your prospects and clients, you become a valuable resource to them. And they’ll be inclined to return the favor.

Losing touch means losing business. Keep in touch with your network. Don’t be that person who calls people only when you need something. Sure, it’s tough to keep those connections warm because we’re all busy all the time. We get so involved in our jobs that we don’t make time to “socialize.” However, not making time to tend to your important relationships could cost you big.

If you want to develop strong relationships that can convert into business opportunities, you must get to know people and learn the ins and outs of their businesses. That means putting down the mouse, opening up the door and stepping out into the real world. And connecting with people without the aid of technology.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.