Networking is at the heart of any successful sales endeavor, whether you're looking for new salespeople, trying to generate leads, or converting prospects into clients. Successful networking will attract qualified salespeople to come to you, bring leads to your doorstep, and give you the tools and information you need to increase your conversions. If you've been involved in sales for a while, you've probably already learned the basics of networking. However, to take it to the next level, you need to learn the tips and tricks of networking champions. Once you've become a networking champion, you'll find much of your work already done, and success will be much easier to achieve.
Work, conferences and trade shows, and industry events are all typical places where people bring their networking "A" game. However, you're not always at those events – and there are other ways you can build your network. When introduced to new people, run into old acquaintances, or just have a few minutes to kill, you could be building your network. Social media channels make this even easier today. Instead of doing nothing while you're waiting for a phone call, use your social media pages to reach out to new and old contacts and work on expanding your network.
For networking to work, it must be guided and specific. Adding every old friend from college, or every person you meet on the street won't help you build a useful network. When you're considering a new contact, you're first thought should be "what can I do to help this person?" If you can imagine assisting them, now or in the future, they can be a valuable part of your network. Don't worry about what they can do for you--networking shouldn't be about farming favors from your contacts. If you can help them, it will eventually benefit you -- that’s just good karma.
As mentioned, networking should be about giving, not receiving. Even if a contact never does anything for you directly, there will always be peripheral benefits. They may introduce you to new contacts, they may mention you in passing to a valuable client, or help you find a key supplier. The majority of contacts will be able to help you directly, but that's not why you should be pursuing them as part of your network. You don't want people adding you to their network simply only for their benefit, so don't approach others in that manner. Take the high ground, and count on others to do the same in return.
When somebody is able to help you, be truly and openly thankful. You don't have to buy them a fruit basket or pet-sit their parakeet, but a nice email or phone call is appreciated. Thank them kindly for their assistance, and renew your offer to lend them assistance, if needed. Showing true appreciation for an act of kindness is a quick, easy way to pave the way for future help you may require. You should view your network as a collection of dignified professionals who are all in it together.
Cut Dead Weight
There is a downside to generosity and graciousness. Some people mistake it for being exploitable. These are the people who approach networking as a way to build a group solely to call on for favors. Identifying these people usually isn't difficult--they'll have many contacts that have little or nothing good to say about them. They always seem to be on the receiving end of favors, but disappear when others need assistance. When you identify one of these contacts, politely, but decisively, cut contact.