Sales Management Digest

18 Knockout Networking and Prospecting Tips
Jeff Keller
Those in search of selling superstardom can always use a little help from their friends. So the more contacts you make, the more help you may get. Effective networking can bring you new clients and prospects, employment opportunities, helpful information and resources, all of which can help your sales. Get started by making these 20 tips part of your networking skills repertoire.

Attitude and Action

1. Project a winning attitude. If you're positive and enthusiastic, people will enjoy being around you. A great attitude will also give you a motivational boost and encourage others to share your enthusiasm. If customers and associates perceive you as a go-getter, they may turn to you more often for advice and assistance – and to offer you referrals.

2. Participate actively in groups and organizations. To network and build relationships effectively you have to do more than pay membership dues, get your name in a directory and show up for meetings. Demonstrate that you'll take the time and make the effort to contribute to the group. Your active participation will also help establish you as a strong and effective leader.

3. Serve others in your network. Instead of wondering what others can do for you, ask yourself how you can serve them. Your willingness to help others determines how willing they are to help you. Going the extra mile for others helps ensure that when the time comes, they won't hesitate to do the same for you.

Referrals

4. If you refer someone, make sure that person mentions your name as the source of the referral. Be explicit. Say, "Give Jane a call, and please tell her that I referred you." In some cases, you may even call Jane and let her know that John Smith will be contacting her. Remember the next time you speak to "Jane" to ask if the referred person called and how the situation turned out.

5. Don't refer every person you meet. Respect the time of those in your network by being selective about handing out referrals. Ask yourself whether a particular referral can really help your associate. Remember that the quality, not quantity, of the leads you supply reflects on you.

Communication and Connection

6. Keep your name in front of people. If you want to stay foremost in the minds of those in your network, keep your name in front of them. Be sure your self-promotion provides value. Share content on Twitter or LinkedIn that features inspirational quotes or industry-specific information.

7. Listen carefully. Use probing, open-ended questions to draw others out in conversations. Express your interest in their careers and interests. The care and concern you show for others enhances your reputation as a sincere and trustworthy salesperson. Also, the more you listen, the more you learn about new leads, prospect needs and changes in your industry or customers' businesses.

8. Make rapport-building phone calls. Surprise the people in your network by calling just to see how they're doing. Ask them about their work, families, how their local or favorite sports teams are doing this season – anything to show an interest in them as people and not just as business contacts. You won't miss the daily five minutes it takes to make the call, but the strong relationships you form could make a big difference in your future success.

9. Take advantage of daily opportunities to meet people. You don't have to be at work to network. Great contacts are waiting for you everywhere: public transportation, health clubs, even supermarkets. Wherever you are, pay attention to those around you and watch for opportunities to meet people who can help make things happen for you.

10. Treat everyone you meet with equal consideration. The contacts you meet may not be CEOs themselves, but they may have VIP connections. When you're networking your way to the top, it pays to stay in everyone's good graces. To make your efforts pay off, apply the Golden Rule to all of your networking relationships.

11. Mingle, mingle. At meetings and seminars, go out of your way to meet different people. Expand your network, and you expand your potential opportunities. For every convention, company retreat or other event you attend, make a personal vow to meet and talk briefly with at least two or three new people before you leave.

12. Step out of your comfort zone. It's called a comfort zone because it's safe and familiar. But if you stay where you've always been and do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. Remember: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Winning big means taking chances. Conquer your fears by doing what you're afraid of, and you'll see the positive changes in your confidence and your career.

13. Ask for what you want. As long as you're willing to help others, don't be shy about letting them help you. Ask for referrals or an introduction to that big decision maker. A direct approach often earns more respect and wastes less time than beating around the bush. Also, when you ask for what you want directly, it may be more difficult for those you ask to put you off or say no.

Follow Up

14. Send prompt follow-up notes when you meet promising contacts. Within 48 hours, send a note telling the person how much you enjoyed meeting with him or her, and enclose some information on yourself and/or your company. Make a better impression by remembering to include something of personal interest to the contact – an article on a subject they find interesting, or the name and number of a trade magazine for their industry.

15. Tell people how they've helped you. If a contact offers you advice on how to close a current prospect, you might say, "Thanks for the suggestions, Dan. I have a meeting with that prospect next week and now I'll be better prepared for any objections I hear." Everyone likes to feel helpful and needed. When you tell people how you used or plan to use their assistance, they'll feel good about giving it to you.

16. Acknowledge great performance wherever you see it. Respond to a great article, speech or presentation by dropping a note that compliments the person who wrote or delivered it. Few people take the time to do this, so the gesture will really make you stand out. Also, your note will probably make the recipient feel great enough to want to return the favor.

17. Show your eternal gratitude. Common courtesy dictates that when someone does you a favor, you show your prompt and utmost appreciation. It's easier for your contacts to do nothing than to help you, so to maintain profitable relationships with them, thank them liberally when they go out of their way for you.

18. Send congratulatory cards and letters. Show your contacts you share their happiness when they get married, get a promotion, etc. Professionally speaking, their successes may be your successes, so your enthusiasm should be genuine.

No one achieves success singlehandedly. As a salesperson you face enough challenges, so why not take some help where you can get it? By working to meet people and maintain relationships, you and your network contacts can help and rely on one another for everything from referrals to VIP introductions.

The skills you build can hasten your success, then make it last longer once you've achieved it.
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