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I’ve Been Networking for a Year and All I’ve Gained is 10 Pounds!

Networking & Sales ManagementOh the woes of networking! Lots of time, money and poundage all in the pursuit of more business! It’s the best thing and worst thing that’s ever happened to sales people. The allure is obvious: comfort and camaraderie of a group, promises of help and introductions, and more sales and revenue—OK, who did I lose with that last item?

More often I hear people who are frustrated with the actual results they are getting from networking. There are several issues at play.

Issue #1: They have built relationships (a hallmark of good networking) yet the relationships aren’t resulting in referrals and introductions to qualified prospects. Yes, I just said qualified prospects. Although I have no desire for others to qualify prospects for me, I am aware that if I’m never getting referred to the right companies or at the right level, it may be that the group either doesn’t understand what I do or doesn’t have relationships that fit with my business model. The first problem is easily remedied. The second problem is related to Issue #2.

Issue #2: They are networking in the wrong places. If the majority of people in your networking group do not have relationships into companies or with the executives for your target market, you may be spending time in the wrong place. One way to quickly evaluate if you are networking in the wrong place is to take inventory of the types of products or services your networking partners sell. Are they predominantly B2C offerings and you have a B2B focus? Are the offerings low dollar cost and you sell at a premium? Do their offerings appeal to corporate clients and you sell to small to mid-sized businesses? Are the offerings credible?— My personal networking low point came at a Sustainability Focus Group. When asked to tell us about her business, a woman withdrew a gallon-sized Ziploc from her purse. She produced marker-sized mouth sprays that were filled with elixirs promising health, energy, stress reduction, etc. She instructed us to insert the spray pump as far into our mouths as possible so that the very back of our throats got a well-coated maximum-benefit dose. When we protested the un-hygienic aspect, she was prepared with an alcohol towelette to use between fellow-networker-mouth-squirts. One good sport actually complied. I passed with something like “No thanks, I’m trying to cut down.”

Issue #3: They aren’t sure how to transition a networking relationship into a prospect relationship. This is often the biggest problem, and it’s multi-faceted. Some individuals and networking groups have a belief that selling to networking partners is somehow distasteful or compromises the integrity of the relationship. Let me go on record: Selling to networking partners is not a moral dilemma. If you are an expert in your field, your fellow networker needs what you sell, why wouldn’t you have a conversation to determine if you could be a resource??? By the way, if they wouldn’t consider buying from you, why would they recommend you to others? The other facet is more a question of how—How do I open the sales conversation? Fears of handling the conversation inappropriately or alienating a trusted relationship keep many from selling effectively. From a process perspective, some elements that must be present are:

  • an agreement about the purpose of the meeting
  • an Authentic Business Conversation that focuses on issues
  • the acknowledgment that whatever the outcome, no one will take it personally

The most effective sales conversations focus on questions, not presentations. You don’t need to present to your networking partner, he probably already knows what you do. You do need to skillfully manage the conversation and lead an excellent Discovery process.

SELLect Sales Tip: Skip the presentation. Focus on the Art of the Question.

SELLect Sales Tip: Don’t ambush a networking partner with a surprise sales call. Be clear about the purpose of the meeting.

SELLect Sales Tip: Learn to set up the meeting in a non-threatening manner, and do not focus on closing. Focus on Discovery!

SELLect Sales Tip: Are you Networking or Selling? You can do both!

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