In selling, the definition of networking is meeting people who can be of help to you and reciprocating by offering help to them in the arena of referring and providing introductions. Here is an example:
I heard about a financial advisor who was on the receiving end of lots of new business because he networked with a landscaper on the Alabama Gulf Coast. This landscaper had a pretty wealthy clientele of people who owned summer homes on or near the beaches.
He told the financial advisor that he was positioned to provide him with referrals, but the financial guy couldn’t figure out how this could be possible. After all, this fellow worked with his hands in an unsophisticated profession. The financial guy had trouble understanding what kind of leverage and credibility this guy could possibly have with wealthy potential clients, but he agreed to work with him, hoping to gain some new contacts.
Since the wives usually made the majority of the landscaping/gardening decisions, this fellow was able to build relationships and have extended conversations with them. Here is a sample of one of those:
“You and your husband are obviously very successful, so I’m guessing you have a financial advisor for your investments. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you for some advice. I met this financial guy in my networking group who uses article 32.3(e) of the I.R.S. code in a unique way in order to pay far less tax on gains. He said dozens of his clients have saved thousands of dollars this way. I suppose your financial guy does the same thing for you, so I’m curious if that strategy really works as he says?”
The wife responded with, “Gosh, I’m really not sure; I’ll have to ask my husband about that one. What is this fellow’s name again?”
Although it might not seem to add up that a landscaper would be a referral source for a financial advisor, this story is a reminder that, you don’t know who they know; or how well they know who they know.
There are many ways to network and various resources to use, but today I’ll highlight two:
BNI (Business Networking International)
With roots back to 1985 and 8,000 plus chapters currently, BNI is the largest networking organization in the world. BNI offers opportunities to share referrals, ideas, and contacts. To find your nearest local chapter visit bni.com, where you will find the associated costs of membership and details to determine if this is a good networking option for you.
Although referrals are BNI’s focus, when you ask participants about their BNI membership, responses include comments like:
- I’ve developed long term friendships.
- I was able to improve my presentation skills immensely.
- The environment at BNI helped me overcome my shyness.
- BNI has taught me to be a better listener.
- Meeting day is the best day of the week for me.
Two consultants that sell for one of my weekly coaching clients attend separate BNI groups in their city. They tell me they receive multiple leads every month that convert to sales at a high closure rate. They give BNI “two thumbs up.”
Why not mention BNI to your manager and ask how you go about being sponsored?
Trade Association Gatherings
Trade associations are organizations devoted to improving, protecting, promoting and supporting their particular industry. Virtually every company you want to sell belongs to an association affiliated with their particular market segment.
All these groups have regular luncheons/meetings for their members and are continually looking for interesting guest speakers to address members on topics relevant to their group. It’s not difficult to network yourself onto the agenda of association meetings where you think there is sales potential for what you market. The key is to NOT give a sales pitch, but rather only share interesting information pertinent to that particular industry. The sales appointments will follow soon after your willingness to go and share with these groups.
In the late ‘80’s, when I was marketing mutual funds and other investments, I learned from my accountant that many of their clients wanted investments with a reasonable yield but with little risk. I briefly explained the mechanics of U.S. Government Securities funds to him, and he was very receptive. About a month later he called and asked me if I would speak about those funds at a luncheon of a newly-formed trade group that his firm helped sponsor earlier that year. It was great exposure for me and filled a learning void for them. Over the next year, I gained more than ten new clients as a result of referrals from those accountants.
Simply Google trade or industry associations if you need help locating these groups and get started networking.
Once you begin, as discussed in this post, it won’t take long to realize that you never know who they know!
————The Wizard of Cos Speaks————
“Doug Robinson has been a large part of my sales success in the pest control industry. I have personally watched several managers, salespeople, and technicians step up their game with the help of Doug’s material. His book and leader guide are simple and effective training tools to increase sales and it would be well worth your time to check out his website and material. He also has a FREE weekly sales newsletter that is informative and fun.” Greg Cosgrove, Owner Cosmo Pest Solutions, Doniphan, MO.
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