Sales is about making connections, though not just with customers. Your long-term success as a salesperson depends on your ability to collaborate with others. Networking, whether it involves securing employment, generating business leads or seeking professional advice, yields immeasurable rewards.
Many salespeople find it tough to commit the time necessary for effective networking. These tips will help you fit some key strategies into your regular routine.
Network to Seize Opportunity
The first step is to be proactive in learning about -- and exposing yourself to -- others within your field. Explore the following networking opportunities:
- Join a Virtual Networking Group: Where applicable, respond to questions on sales career-related communities. Establish yourself as a valuable resource, and you will likely win the respect, advice and interest of your colleagues. Who knows? You may even catch a recruiter's eye.
- Gather Information: Research your trade and learn about fellow experts within your field. Find out where your local industry events and networking groups are.
- Be a Fan: Attend a seminar held by someone in your vocation. After the seminar, send the person an email, advises Len Foley, a sales trainer located in Atlanta. Note your thoughts about the seminar and suggest that the two of you meet to further discuss your mutual professional interests. Moreover, find out what networking groups this person belongs to.
- Join a Local Networking Group: Join an organization in your field to enhance your skills. Joining a group will keep you in the know about new faces and developments in your profession. It may also expose you to the advice of experts and will allow you to share your expertise and, thereby, strengthen your "brand" among your colleagues.
- Identify Yourself: When networking and attending related functions, make sure you have a nametag and you're easily approachable. If the event you're attending doesn't supply a nametag, convert your business card into one.
- Don't Shy Away from Expert Advice: Listen carefully when a colleague or field expert offers advice. In addition to good counsel, she may give you the inspiration you need to fuel your next big effort.
- Don't Limit Your Contacts to Your Industry: Be open to meeting people in all avenues in sales. You never know when you may be one person away from the person you'd like to meet.
Network to Market Yourself
Networking is not only a means to get to know movers and shakers in the industry, but it can also help you become one yourself. Jill Lublin, CEO for Promising Promotion, a public relations consulting firm in Novato, California, asserts that "it's not who you know, it's who knows you."
Try these conversation starters the next time you attend an event:
- "I'm interested in your business, and I have a sales program with tips and strategies that I feel will enhance it. I'd be happy to share them with you over lunch. How about Wednesday at 11:45?" Showcase your sales savvy by contacting the new acquaintance's administrative assistant for follow-up details.
- "I recently visited the town you're based in. Are you originally from there?" Show an interest in the person's background to try to establish common ground.
- "I was just speaking with so-and-so, and…" When trying to establish commonalities between yourself and the potential contact, drop names -- not your resume. Avoid selling yourself at first -- for example, don't introduce yourself by listing your accomplishments. People aren't likely to care how much you know until they know how much you care about their interests.
When approaching a potential contact, keep in mind that if you appear to have something to offer him, he will be more inclined to return the favor.