Part 1: Build Your Network
Contributed by Kim Jennings-Eckert
In my first article, Sales Accountability – How Do You Measure Sales?, I shared my personal insights on sales accountability and helping your sales team reach their goals consistently. Sales is a tough gig and most people find it’s a lot tougher than they realize. During this next 4-part series, I want to dive into sales a bit deeper. We will talk about all facets of sales, including building your network, prospects, goals and retaining your business relationships.
Why is your network important?
What is YOUR network? Why does it even matter? Having a strong network is essential to being a good salesperson. We’ve all heard the term “used car salesman” as a negative description of a salesperson. I don’t like to stereotype but … that term is often used to describe a person who is pushy and immediately steps into sales talk. In this day and age, we are hit up frequently from all corners to buy a product or service. Sales pitches no longer come from a cold call, email, inside a store – but now we see pop up ads on our phones, computers, retarget marketing ads, Pay-per-click ads, games and other apps, billboards – everywhere. I’m a marketer so, of course, I promote advertising as it fits with your marketing plan (For more info, read “Don’t Buy A Duck… Stop Wasting Your Money and Do Marketing that Works” by Derek Champagne). I’m also a salesperson that confronts objections daily. So the question becomes – how do you meet people, share your services and they express interest?
Network, Network, Network!
Unless you hit a potential business at the right moment, typically the first response may be to reject an initial meeting. Why? Most often the answer is simply because they don’t know you or your company. When speaking with a complete stranger, a person’s natural tendency is to put their guard up and tell you they’re aren’t interested – even if they could be! The best way to combat this objection is to first build your network of friends, trusted business associates and business acquaintances. The bigger your network, the wider your reach – which is like heaven if you’re a social butterfly like me. I love people and I love doing business with good people that I trust! In fact, most who know me say I make friends with just about everyone I meet. Of course I do – because it’s easy to do. I make a point of really knowing the people I meet. Are they married? Kids? What do they like to do for fun? And of course – what is their business and their role? If you want to grow your personal network, befriend people – but be authentic! We can tell the difference between sincerity and “it’s part of my job”. If you genuinely bring people into your network, they will quickly become your friend and brand ambassador.
It’s not all about you!
Now that you have this network of friends – what’s next? Gaining new friends is the easy part – so if you struggled with growing your network, you’re in for a doozy! This next phase – retaining your network – is the most challenging part. It’s easy to be selfish and do those things that most benefit ourselves. I’m not trying to be harsh – but I do believe in being real. Let’s step back to the days of kindergarten, or a time in grade school when you entered the classroom for the first time. Do you remember feeling fear or nervous? Will someone like you? If they do, will their friends accept you? To gain your first friend, you may have shared a snack or traded sandwiches. Then they introduce you to their friends, widening your circle. How did you keep your friends? Did you help a friend with a homework assignment or introduce them to one of your friends or share your lunch if they forgot their own? It’s really no different in business networking – trading sandwiches could mean trading services. Or helping someone with homework is introducing them to someone you know who offers a service they need. The concept is the same – build your network and be a resource. Going back to the idea of being authentic – be sure you are retaining your network without direct expectations. Sure, we all hope that as we share our resources, it will be reciprocated. But NEVER expect it to the point of losing your sincerity.
In a nutshell….
One of your greatest sales assets is your network. You’ve learned the significance of your personal network, how to build it and retain it, while maintaining your authentic self. If you become successful in building and harnessing your network, then you’ve created a pipeline of warm referrals. Over time you will become a resource for others, allowing you to obtain meetings through warm introductions from trusted colleagues. To be clear, having a large network does not eliminate the necessity of cold calls or marketing / advertising. It does, however, create an avenue of leads that overcomes one major objection – interest in your service!