June 20, 2019

Be the NetworKING (or QUEEN) of Sales


Be the NetwoKING (or QUEEN) of Sales

Growing a network to generate referrals is the #1 way to become a long-term top producing sales rep.  This article talks about the 'why' of growing a network and does not focus on how to grow a flourishing network.   That part is easy… the hard part is shifting your mindset away from a traditional sales model to strictly referral-based sales!


Sales people who are able to grow the largest book of business over time are those that leverage other people to help them do it.  Networking is a term used to broadly define making connections and growing relationships that ultimately pay dividends.  From a salesperson’s perspective, you must think of 'networking' as growing YOUR OWN SALES TEAM for your own personal business (territory) within your company.  I should add… your own FREE sales team!


Why do companies hire salespeople?  One of the key reasons is that they understand the need to leverage human capital to grow revenue quickly, and exponentially in the case of very successful businesses.  While this takes an upfront investment in time (and money, of course), if a sales team is established properly it will far 'outsell' what an owner/operator can do themselves.  An ideal business is one that can continue to operate without the business owner’s involvement.   This is exactly how successful sales reps who have established their own network (FREE sales team!) view their own personal business within their company.


Unfortunately, many individual sales reps strictly rely on their own efforts instead of taking advantage of more creative ways to leverage human capital (or, create a network that pays dividends).  Don’t get me wrong, cold calling, direct mail, and other methods, depending on your industry, can be a good way to diversify your sales strategy in the early stages of growing you network, however,the best method to achieve long term sales success is through networking.


Here are five foundational keys to growing your referral network:

1.      Understanding Networking Leverage - cold calling vs.your personal sales team

I have outlined this topic above so I'll keep this section brief, but it's important to hammer the point home.  Sales you get through cold calling and traditional methods are a 1 to 1 relationship… meaning your efforts produce a set amount of results.  You have to continually cold call to get more business to come in.  There is no leverage.  What's great is that you'll probably see referrals from clients over time, which is the start to your personal sales team, but this just gets you part of the way there.   

When you have your personal sales team in place that you have established through networking, you can leave town on vacation for a week and continue to sell. I travel a lot and don't remember a time that I was out of town for more than a few days that I didn't get a referral. I didn't put any effort in and was still able to get results.  This is running your own business within the business you work for!


2.      Referrals are ready to buy… and often, only from you.

When a referral comes to you through your trusted network, these prospects are already in a buying stage.  You didn’t have to spend hours calling companies to find 1 out of 100 that is looking to buy.  Furthermore, they very often trust the person who made the referral to you.  Their guard is down when talking to you and a meaningful discussion happens right from the start.  While the business I am in is very competitive and there are hundreds of providers across the country, many of the clients referred to me are not looking at any other competitors!  Please read that sentence again if you didn’t just get excited… That’s the beauty of your own personal sales team!


3.      Ask for help!

One of the most difficult things to do in life for many of us is to ask for help.  However,one of the easiest things for us to do as humans is to help others. This is one of the most important aspects to understand while growing your referral business.  When you are networking and meeting people for coffee, reconnecting over drinks, etc… try asking for help.  People will bend over backwards for you if you are specific in what you are asking for.    


4.      Be specific, and train your network

One of the main reasons certain people take longer to generate a personal sales team that pays dividends is that they are not specific in what they are asking for, and they don’t do a good job of training their network on what to look out for.

As an example, I get referrals from CPA’s.  Instead of asking for an introduction to a “CPA” when I’m meeting someone in my network for coffee, I’ll get more specific.  I may ask for a CPA working at a mid-size firm in the suburbs of Chicago who focuses on tax for manufacturing companies.  While my company works with most industries and gets referrals from CPA’s at a wide range of firms, being specific helps the person you are speaking with shuffle through their ‘Rolodex’ in their mind and think of someone to connect me with.  They also feel that since I was so specific,I’ll likely add more value to the person they are going to connect me with.  In my ‘rookie’ years of networking I feared that being too specific would cause me to miss out on opportunities,which is a natural thought, but what happens is it dilutes your message and doesn’t produce results.  

It’s also important to be as specific as possible when giving your elevator pitch. Be more specific with your target market, the types of companies you work with, the geographical constraints, etc. I work with clients in most industries that are as small as 1 employee up to several thousand, but when networking I’m sure to share our absolute sweet spot which is 25-300 employee companies in the manufacturing, skilled nursing, and cannabis industries.  The more specific you are, the better chance your network will think about YOU when an opportunity arises.  As discussed above, people want to help you and since they aren’t experts in your business,the more specifics you provide helps them think of people they can introduce you to.


5.      Level-Up your network

When growing your personal sales team, we all know that it makes sense to network with other people who sell to and work with the same people that are our buyers. If I’m selling to a CFO, I want to network with other people who sell to CFOs.

What most people fail to do is ‘level-up’their network.  What I mean by that is to not only network with people as I mentioned in the paragraph above, but try to build your network with ‘higher level’ people. The more CEO’s and business owners you know, the more connected you’ll be in your community; which will ultimately pay off.  Over time, as these people gain trust in you,their referrals will be the ones that are ready to buy as they have deep trust and respect for the CEO or business owner who sent them your way!  This goes back to the topic of asking for help…  I simply say “I’m trying to grow my network with CEO’s, do you know any CEO’s that would be willing to take my call to help me expand my network”?  

If you take my tip above and get connected to a CEO (or anyone else for that matter), take off your sales hat!  The easiest way to lose a member of your personal sales team is to ‘sell’ a connection that was not introduced to you as a prospective client.  Your goal for that meeting is to make sure that person understands what you do, and to begin creating a relationship.  If that CEO was referred to you as a prospective client…. sell away and hit a home run!

Making a referral is making a sale!

We could spend hours talking about how to develop and nurture your network, but the key thing to keep in mind is that you should look at making a referral to someone else just the same way you look at making a sale!  I can’t speak for you,but when someone sends me a piece of business that closes, I feel I need to do something in return to help them.  If you make 1 referral a month to different people for a year, that’s 12 people who feel indebted to you.

It’s important to know that you cannot expect a referral back from someone you sent a referral to.  It just doesn’t always work that way.  However, over time the people who get the most business from their network are those that make the most referrals and add the most value to their network.

Jon White is Vice President, Advisory Services for Paragon Payroll - www.paragonpayroll.com

SalesGig creates seamless lead generation with limitless opportunities by connecting companies with referral partners.  Sign up today and get connected.

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