For the first 90 days of this year, I'm each week posting the "single most important thing you need to know" about 13 essential aspects of sales and marketing. Why? Because of the Pareto Principle of the Internet Age: "1 percent of your activity creates 99 percent of your success."

So far, I've revealed The Single Most Essential Rule About Pricing; The Best Sales and Networking Trick, Bar None; and The 10-Minute Website Tweak That Increases Sales. In this column, I'm taking on customer loyalty, with one of the neatest sales tricks of all time.

As sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer says: "Customer loyalty is golden," and he's not talking metaphorically. Customer loyalty means money. No, not just money, lots and lots of money. Here's why:

  1. A loyal customer produces reliable year-after-year revenue.
  2. A loyal customer creates more profit (low cost-of-sale).
  3. A loyal customer buys more from you as they grow.
  4. A loyal customer early adopts new products as you release them.
  5. A loyal customer tolerates your higher prices.
  6. A loyal customer forgives your occasional mistake.
  7. A loyal customer tells their friends to buy from you.

So, obviously, customer loyalty is a good thing for a seller to have. And you've probably heard the many ways to win it, like innovative products, strong personal rapport, world-class customer service, lowest prices, and best value.

Well, all that stuff is good to have, but they're just your ticket to get into the game. Plus, everyone does those things, right? No, if you want DEEP customer loyalty, you've got to amp it up to a whole 'nuther level. And here's how: bring your customer some customers.

At some point early in your relationship with a customer, you should have a conversation like this:

  • You: "Hey, I know somebody who could really use your service."
  • Customer: "Really, can I have their contact info?"
  • You: "I'll do you one better." (Pull out phone.) "I'll send her an email and CC you on it."

That conversation takes less than 10 seconds, but at the end of those 10 seconds, you've transformed yourself, in the customer's eyes, from a vendor into a partner. You're no longer just selling to that customer, you're building that customer's business.

Look, all B2B products and services are only valuable to customers insofar as those products and services help them build their own businesses. But product benefits are abstract, impersonal, and always happen sometime in the future.

But bringing in a customer for your customer.... That's concrete, personal, and immediate. That's REAL. This technique is so powerful it even works as a "hail Mary" when otherwise all is lost.

I know a salesperson whose company had totally screwed up a big account. The former salesperson had left in disgrace. She was brought in to try to save the account. When she got in touch, the customer was all "don't even bother." Then she emailed this response:

Actually, I'm contacting you for two reasons. First, I want to fix things, as you know, but second, while researching your company, it occurred to me that one of my ex-clients could really use your services. I'd like to set up a brief meeting so that you and he can get to know each other. Is that OK with you?

Boom! The entire nature of that customer relationship changed. The unhappy customer was now at least willing to talk with her.

I'd like to be able to tell you that she saved the situation and won back the account, but that didn't happen. There was just too much baggage. But she did get a shot at it because she earned the unhappy customer's (temporary in this case, alas) loyalty.

If it can work even in the midst of a sales disaster, consider how much more powerful this technique can be when used to help an already happy customer. Heck, your competitors won't even be able to get the time of day from your customers.