Networking For Sales

Networking For Sales

We’ve all been to a networking event, conference happy hour, or meetup with that overly “salesy” networker—the one pushing business cards into everyone’s hand or looking over your shoulder as soon as he realizes you’re not a prospect. Or, if you’re in sales, maybe you have unknowingly found yourself at one of those sales networking groups where everyone is expected to trade leads.

If you’re like me, all of these are awkward exchanges.

Since the launch of Friend of a Friend, I’ve received dozens of questions about how to put the lessons of network science into practice specifically for sales professionals. It’s great that we’re all connected by six degrees of separation, or that millions of potential new connections are just one degree (one friend of a friend) away…but what if the goal is to navigate that network to find customers you can help?

There are ways to find potential prospects and clients that respect how networks actually work.

One of the easiest ways to get started is to explore the fringes of your network. I often use the question

Who do you know in __________?

With __________ being the company, industry, or geography in which you’re trying to get connected.

But this question carries a problem for sales representatives. People don’t know what their friends need. Heck. People often don’t know what they themselves need. So, if you’re asking, “Who do you know that needs a new car?” You might just get blank stares from the people you ask.

But with a small tweak, the question can still work wonders. If you can identify what life stage or what frustration is both a trigger for a new buying cycle and something people are likely to share about themselves to their friends, then you know how to fill in the blank.

For example, you don’t want to say, “Who do you know that needs a new car?” But you can ask, “Who do you know that is expecting a first child?” Because when you have that first child, that little sports car isn’t going to work that much anymore. So, growing a family is the trigger for looking for a bigger, safer car to buy. A similar question would work for life insurance, since expecting a first child is often a trigger for realizing we need to do better planning for emergencies.

If you can identify those life stages—those things that put people into the buying cycle—then you can ask that question. You’ll find that people are much more likely to remember friends of theirs that are facing that situation. The fringes of your network likely has all the potential buyers you need, so keep asking that question often.

If you do, you’ll find that you can skip all of those awkward networking meetings and probably make more sales anyway.

This article originally appeared as an episode of the DailyBurk, which you can follow on YouTubeFacebook, LinkedInTwitter, or Instagram.

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About the author

David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.

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