The best sales people don’t work at your company. Fighting words? Read on and decide for yourself.

The Internet recently marked its fortieth birthday. For the first, say, thirty-eight years, it brought us an exponentially increasing tsunami of information with one big caveat. The source of much of that information was unknown, suspect, or worse.

I recently learned that 63.2% of statistics are made up. That stipulated, it turns out that only 14% of us trust the advertising and marketing being trumpeted by businesses. Shocked that people aren?t buying as soon as they discover your website?

On the other hand, 78% of us trust peer recommendations. Some of us probably have lying, cheating friends, but on balance, apparently they’re a good lot.

During the last two years we’ve seen an explosion of social networking. What’s different now is that people are using their real identities and they’re connecting principally with people they know?. Facebook recently surpassed 450 million members (making it the world?s third largest country), while LinkedIn is approaching 70 million business professionals.

It turns out that what we’re telling each other in these networks is greatly influencing our behavior. Last summer, Sacha Baron Cohen launched Brno?, his highly anticipated follow-up to the blockbuster Borat?. Facebook friends immediately trashed the movie on opening night, and by the next day it was seriously underperforming the experts? box office projections.

Shortly thereafter, on another opening Friday, Inglourious Basterds? was described by one of my Facebook friends as ?the best QT movie yet? (Quentin Tarantino, director of ?Pulp Fiction? among others). As a direct result, my wife, my son, and three of his friends ended up in a theater that same weekend. Apparently this was not a unique experience as it was QT?s biggest opening weekend ever!

Back to your sales people? When they start talking, 86% of us (and hopefully not the remaining 14%) stop listening. Or at least we stop believing.

But what if you could get your happiest customers talking about you, to your prospects and to potential customers not even on your radar? You’d be leveraging that 78% trust; that would be powerful.

While there are probably ways to orchestrate this IRL (in real life), geography, expense, and our respective busy lives impede it. But social networks can actually facilitate it.

How about using LinkedIn to have happy customers introduce and recommend you to new prospects? How about using your iPhone or Flip videocam to record selected customers talking about your great products and fabulous support?

It’s true; your existing customers can be your best sales people. These days, with social media it’s easier than ever to help them work for you.

One last thought:? The opposite side of the same coin is unhappy customers: It’s critical to turn them around immediately. Search YouTube for ?United Breaks Guitars? and see how a single unhappy passenger cost the airline $180 million in market valuation. Don’t let it happen to your business.