Recently I had a meeting with a top ranked sales person who wanted to understand what social media could do for his company. Now this guy is an old hand at sales and he told me most of his business leads came from referrals. He has a network of over 2,000 people that he carefully maintains with phone calls, emails, lunches, sales calls and sharing his connections to help the network thrive. He's spent 20 years nurturing his relationships and they've paid off quite well.

After 5 minutes he understood the power of social media. "OH, so it's a big referral network!" He got really excited, and we started bouncing ideas around. It was fun, and exactly why I love this job. Seeing somebody really "get it" and then being able to coach them through the ropes and watch them run with it is exciting.

Ok, but is social media a referral network? It can be. For someone who truly nurtures their relationships with contacts like this, social media is just that, the biggest referral network you could ask for. These seasoned sales people work for years on their relationships with potential, current and even ex-clients because you never know where that referral is going to come from.

They send gifts on holidays and special occasions. They know when your kid is graduating, that your wife likes dark chocolate and you like Scotch (only Highland Single Malt). He also knows this about your secretary, your partner and the competition, and he gives every contact some personal attention on a regular basis to keep in touch.

Imagine the power social media can have in the skilled hands of a relationship builder like this. He can be even faster to respond to events and news, cross reference his connections and make sure to introduce people to others they need to know to make their lives easier and better.

He can use the tools to listen to what's going on in the market and be the first to share it with his connections and to share the solution to a problem before they even know they have it. He can send less Scotch (I prefer Springbank 12 yr old, thank you ) and spend more time in conversation.

Best of all, once he's got his listening tools set up and a strategy to engage, he'll have more time for sales.

Author's Bio: 

Janet Fouts is a social media coach, speaker and trainer. She blogs at and is the author of Social Media Success! to be released in October.