Working with a referral customer is more enjoyable, since you start off at the level of a trusted advisor rather than a perceived adversary. You can focus more of your efforts on taking care of their needs, which in turn leads to a more satisfied customer (and satisfied salesperson). Referral customers are less likely to be or become problem customers.
This is the Nirvana, the perfect goal to strive for if you depend on customers for your income in some way.
Non-referral customers are second choice, since you have to work harder to find them, and the initial level of trust is not present. That is why I prefer to spend more of my time, money and efforts on existing customers than on advertising in search of new non-referral customers.
Here is a radical thought. Decide on the percentage of referral business you would like to have versus non-referral business. Perhaps youd like a 60%, or maybe 70%? Now have a look at your marketing budget, and see how you divide it between advertising versus rewards for your existing customers.
Take that a step further. Look through your day planner and see how y ou spend your time on prospecting for new business versus investing time on your existing customers.
Perhaps you are new into sales, and dont have many past customers to develop into a source of referrals. If possible, pick up orphan accounts. Those are the customers that were previously serviced by a former sales employee. Make contact with them and offer to take care of their present and future needs. Follow up with a note and include a couple of business cards.
If you are not in sales, working somewhere within a large company, then consider your internal customers, those for whom you provide services. Invest more time on your internal customers and the referrals will come. Word gets around that you (or your group) are very efficient and pleasant to work with. Being seen as a keeper in this economic climate is a good thing. :-)