Networking is important in sales, however if you routinely return from a networking event with a pocketful of business cards that aren’t useful to you; you need to rethink your strategy. While it’s good to make friends, it’s better to make money and making the right connections with the right people to expand your business requires focus and discipline.
Salespeople can and do succeed without ever building a network, but these salespeople are probably working ten times harder to generate sales than their colleagues who do practice good networking. A solid business network will bring you leads, help you set up meetings with otherwise unreachable people and even give you a few shoulders to cry on when things aren’t going well.
Networking is, at its core, relationship-building; you are making a mutually beneficial connection with someone for business reasons. Sounds a lot like selling, doesn’t it? A lot of the skills you need to build and maintain a network are the same skills you already use to sell your product or service, so in addition to networking’s other benefits, it’s a great opportunity to polish your sales skills.
Before shooting off and networking with just anyone – ensure you have a plan. To create a successful networking strategy, you need to be clear about why you want to network in the first place. Is it to find new business or new contacts or is it to retain and build existing relationships? Is it to position yourself as an expert or a champion within your market or peer group, or is it to set up a team of experts?
When considering your reasons to network, it’s important to establish how much of your networking time and effort you should devote to your different goals. For example: How much of your networking should focus on finding new contacts and how much should be spent building relationships with existing contacts? How urgent is each of your networking goals and are you devoting your time and resources in the right area?
When it comes to finding the right place to network, think about your target market. Having a LinkedIn profile may be the best way to network online, but if your potential clients and contacts aren’t really web-savvy, it’s probably not the best way to connect with them. Perhaps trying an industry convention or your nearest Chamber of Commerce may yield better results.
Once you’ve built a basis for your network, ensure a great 2-way line of communication is established and that there is give and take in the relationship. You’ll know what it is that you wish to gain from the connection, but if there is no reciprocation, you’ll soon find yourself relegated to voice mail with no hope of a call back.
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