You?ve probably noticed it?s becoming increasingly difficult to capture appointments with cold calls or by phone, email, or snail mail.
In the good old days, the average locally owned business was only approached by about 16 local suppliers trying to dip into their marketing budgets each week; media sales people, sign companies, printers and so on.
In 2015, unlimited long distance calling plans, the Internet and email, make it easy for salespeople from around the world, from Web designers to SEO consultants, to knock on your prospects? doors. They?re bombarded with attempted connections every day and have learned to block them.
In the face of this change, you?ll be hearing a lot about inbound marketing versus outbound marketing, but inevitably, inbound efforts will also become globalized, homogenized, fragmented, and cluttered as well. Never has effective networking, online and in person, been as important to your sales as it is today. Strategic networking is one of the tried, proven, and time-tested ways of making connections and branding yourself.
I?m not talking about glad-handing, schmoozing, or ?working the room? at an event. I?m talking about strategically planned and well-executed networking.
Long before social media claimed to build networks, we were networking face-to-face, and the most successful salespeople had strategic networking plans to improve their return on investment of time and money in networking.
To paraphrase President John F Kennedy, when creating your networking plan, ?Ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network.? Put another way, it?s not just better to give than to receive, it?s better to give because you will receive.
The four keys to effective networking in the real world, and in the virtual social-media world, are;
4.) Be prepared
The First Key Is Your Plan
Choose the right target audience. It makes more sense to join a small network where you have no competitors, than it does to join a network where three other salespeople from your station have already established relationships.
Also, where possible, review the network membership list to determine which networks have the most viable prospects for you.
We recommend participating in least one industry or business network like a Chamber of Commerce or Ad and Sales Club, and one charitable organization or social club like Rotary or Lion?s Club that you can help and benefit from.
The same rules apply to social media networks as to real-world networks. Rather than trying to participate in numerous social media platforms in a small way, strategically select two or three that you can contribute to in a consistent and meaningful way.
Your plan should include a budget for both time and money. Creating helpful and useful posts for your social media networks takes time, and contributing your time or expertise to a local club will always pay dividends over time.
The Second Key To Successful Networking Is Don?t Join, Participate
Never just sign up or sign on. Just having your name on a roster won?t help you win hearts and minds. Members of more formal or organized networks or clubs will actually resent self-promoters who don?t contribute to the cause.
Choose networks that you genuinely enjoy or have something in common with. Don?t try to fake empathy to capture more business. And ask people within each network what they do. They?ll appreciate your interest, and inevitably ask you what you do.
Become known for what you know. When your network needs help with advertising, marketing, or public relations, contribute your expertise without trying to sell your station every time.
Where possible, get your station involved. If there is a cause or event your network needs to promote, let your news and promotions people know, and try to capture their support.
You can win huge points with your network members if you can get your station to donate door prizes for fundraising events or airtime to promote them.
Networking Success Key Number 3: Listen
Quit selling and start listening. How do you feel if every time you see someone, they try to sell you? Listening will always give you valuable insights about your real and virtual networks, the tribe?s members, the marketplace and their needs.
And lighten up. Sure, you hope to get business from your network, but that doesn?t mean it?s all business. Enjoy your network, have fun and be fun.
When you listen, participate, and contribute to a network, the members will actually approach you and ask for your presentation or advice when they are ready to buy.
Being invited to present is much more effective than constantly sticking your foot in the door to pitch.
The Fourth And Final Key: Be Prepared
When your network prospect is ready to buy, they?ll feel obliged to ask you for more information. Practice outlining who you are, what you do, and why you are the best at what you do, in 50 words or less, and always be ready to hand out your business cards.
Last but not least, once your brand is established, and you?ve built trust, don?t hesitate to ask for referrals from your network contacts.
It?s tougher to break through the crowd of salespeople today. You need to use every available tool to brand yourself, and make positive engaging connections, and good old-fashioned networking, face-to-face or virtually, still works.
As you plan for a successful 2015, remember to include a networking plan that covers all four keys to networking success:
4.) Be prepared
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