Call me crazy, but when I spend money doing business with people, I expect them to treat me well, to follow up with me and to have processes in place to ensure my needs are met.

I recently received the following note from a salesperson at a company I’ve done business with for years: “My name is Tim Sales [name changed to protect the guilty]. I am your new rep. Let me know if you need anything else.”

In the same email, I saw a note from my previous rep to Tim: “She is yours now. She is great. I guess they never moved her out of my name. She is in Nor. Cal.” I’m glad someone thinks I’m great, but, boy, did I drop through the cracks or what?

If you don’t care about me, I don’t care about you. What annoyed me most about this situation was that I had referred people to this company. If they don’t care enough about me to ensure that I don’t slip through the cracks, I no longer care about referring people to them. Clearly, their processes are broken, and I only refer people (especially my clients) to companies I trust will treat them as well as I would.

I’ve met with key people in this organization, who told me referrals are an integral part of their business-development strategy. Odd, then, that my calls and emails haven’t been returned. As the old saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Nothing is more important than caring for your clients. Yes, you have a busy schedule. We all do. But to salespeople, clients are like gold. If you want to keep your clients and — just as important — get referrals from them, you must stay in touch, take care of them, help them with problems, introduce them to people they need to meet and become a sales advisor they know they can trust.

And don’t just ask for referrals. Provide them with referrals. One of the greatest things you can do for your clients (and your reputation) is to become a trusted and valued referral resource.

Bottom line: Never let your clients drop through the cracks. The fortune’s always in the follow-up.

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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.