Professional Networking is the biggest underdog when it comes to sales. Have you ever thought why?
Hi Friends, this is Prabodh Deolekar, your online B2B sales mentor. And today we will be talking about all things ‘Professional Networking.’
We have heard this statement plenty of times, “The higher up you go, the smaller your circle gets.” But there is no denying the fact that there is still a social circle in the picture. Human beings are social animals. We need friends. But what kind of friends? That is the deciding factor here.
Thanks to social media, today we have a front-row seat to the lives of celebrities and the people we admire. We know almost everything about them, their favourite pastime, their net worth and also their favourite people to hang out with. And if you notice, famous rich people almost always have famous rich connections.
Famous people and their social network.
Elon Musk. He is the world’s second-richest person and founder of two revolutionary companies like Tesla and Space X. His list of achievements and ongoing projects could easily be a biopic script. His net worth is over 161 billion USD! And do you know who his closest friend in the industry is? The co-founder of Google, Larry Page with a net worth of a whopping 91.5 billion USD. Talk about being rich and successful and having rich and successful friends.
Everyone is aware of Virat Kohli; The captain of the Indian team and an impeccable sportsman. His social circle has made the rounds in the media quite a few times. Virat Kohli likes to keep his circle small. But, that circle includes the very well known South African cricket player AB de Villiers. Despite playing for different countries and also competing against each other on multiple occasions, Kohli and AB de Villiers have always made the headlines as close friends. Two famously celebrated, handsomely paid sportsmen who also happen to be best friends!
Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal’s wedding was the most talked-about Indian wedding. For months after the ordeal, our Whatsapp chats were still littered with pictures and videos of their grand ceremony. And if you take a look at the Ambanis’ guest list, all you would find would be A-listed B town celebrities and Hotshot business magnates.
Even if you set aside the net worths of these people, one thing stands quite clear. People who made it to the top, have connections with others belonging to the same tier. Why? Because …
‘Your network defines your net worth.’
BNI (Business Networking International)
BNI (Business Networking International) as an organisation sets a great example of the power of professional networking.
Ivan Misner founded BNI in 1985. BNI has more than ten thousand chapters in 74 different countries and 2,83,000 + members. Members of BNI meet every other week. They discuss business and support each other’s businesses by sharing referrals.
This provides them with an opportunity to network with like-minded people. It gives them a safe space to share ideas, identify and understand opportunities and most importantly to gain and give business referrals.
In 2020, members of BNI generated referrals resulting in over $17.5 billion (USD) in closed business worldwide.
For a salesperson to achieve his quarterly and yearly sales quota, he needs to consistently build and maintain a qualified sales pipeline. There are many techniques to build a healthy pipeline. But, one of the most underutilized and underrated tools in a salesperson’s arsenal is professional networking.
What is Professional Networking –
Professional networking is an active process of building meaningful connections with people within your field for mutual gains.
Networking can be one of the most effective channels to generate your sales pipeline. But, it often goes unnoticed because people don’t know how to do it.
Professional networking can be a tricky topic for you if you have not learned professional networking or have not been around a professional networker.
Large conventions/gatherings or in COVID, an online conference often intimidate some salespeople. They don’t know where to start when meeting new people. Some usually struggle with how to talk about themselves and the company they are representing.
Professional networking has gone virtual and has lost the personal touch that it used to have. In the pandemic, there are very few or no offline events where you can just walk up to a person and introduce yourself.
So your networking approach clearly needs a strategy. Thus, in this blog, we are going to talk about 5 Professional networking tips to generate your sales pipeline.
1.Set a goal for your professional networking:
In the bestselling book 7 habits of highly effective people, Steven Covey mentions Habit 2 as “ Always keep the end in mind”. I use this principle in all aspects of my life including professional networking. So before learning professional networking think about what do you want to achieve through it.
I have three goals for my professional networking. I have coined the acronym CRI ( Collaborate, Reference, Insight) for it. So, the goal of my personal networking is:
- To find mutually beneficial opportunities where I can collaborate with the person I am networking with.
- To find a reference who can help me generate a funnel. That reference could be a prospective customer or a prospective partner.
- To gain market intelligence and insight that I am not aware of and is useful for me in business development.
These goals guide me to organise my networking approach. They help me stay on track and not get distracted by other things
2. Give first before expecting anything in return
Professional networking is a two-way street. People with whom you network are not obligated to fulfil your networking goals nor are you obligated to fill theirs.
However, you want to make it work. So how do you do it?
There is a quote by famous American Entrepreneur Jim Rohn …
“ Only by giving are you able to receive more than you have”
That applies to professional networking too. The best way to get more from networking is to approach it with a giving mindset. I have learned this from my own experience.
So wherever possible see how you can add value to the person you meet. It could be by sharing references or it could be by sharing market insight. It could be anything that adds value to the other person’s professional/personal goal.
Today, most of us tend to think, if I do this, what’s in it for me? That’s where the quote from Jim Rohn is so pertinent.
If you are continually providing help and assistance to others, they will feel obligated to do the same for you. This most of the time leads to new connections, opportunities for business developments and collaborations.
This may not happen instantly but it paybacks in long term for sure. The key to successful professional networking is helping others by serving them before they serve you. Reciprocity makes relationships stronger, mutual, long-lasting, and profitable for both parties involved.
3. Building Relationship is of utmost importance in Professional Networking :
Professional networking is about building relationships with people whom you might potentially be working with sometimes in the future. Professional networking fails if you try to treat it like cold calling where your sole focus is to benefit yourself from other people without reciprocating.
You want people to see you as someone who is kind-hearted, smart, approachable and willing to help others in professional as well as personal life.
So whenever you are networking try to follow the below-mentioned guidelines :
- Be genuinely interested in the other person.
- Ask questions about what they do and why they do it.
- Show empathy when they share their challenges and victories.
- Be curious about their life, family, current situation, etc.
- Allow them to talk and let them know that you’re listening with your body language
4. Frequency of Networking
Robin Dunbar anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist made a discovery. As per him, 150 is the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships.
As a B2B sales professional it is important to frequently network. The more often you see people that matter, the more likely they will remember you and want to help you. This makes sense if we have to believe Robin Dunbar because we can remember the names and details of 150 people only. So if we see them less often it becomes harder for us to recall their information.
I prefer to select and calendarize my networking events for the quarter. This makes me well prepared for my Business Development activities.
5. Follow up
SubcrinThere is a famous quote, “ Fortune lies in the follow-up”. We all are busy and constantly meeting people offline or online. One way to stand out among the ocean of people whom we meet every time is to Follow up.
When it comes to the follow-up, I follow a 24x7x1 rule to build a relationship with the person for the long term.
Within 24 hrs of meeting a person, I will send them a thank you email. Within 7 days I will connect with them on social media platforms. After 1 month I will try to meet them again for further discussion.
A follow-up can take many different forms. It could be a thank you email or a MOM email. It could also be a LinkedIn or Facebook invite. Whatever it is, its goal is always to touch base with the other person. It is about reminding them that you exist or about asking for their help. You want to re-introduce yourself and let them know that you’re still around.
Professional networking is the start of a relationship. However, it can be a very stressful and tiresome process if it’s not structured correctly.
Some people perceive Networking as a waste of time. There is a common joke, NETWORKING = NOT WORKING. I have known and observed a few people who think this way. These are the same people who don’t follow any of the above-mentioned tips and then wonder why networking has not delivered any results to them.
Like any other skill, Professional Networking requires practice. The more you practise, the more it will become a part of your muscle memory and eventually a part of your behaviour.
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Till then signing off, this is Prabodh Deolekar. Keep hustling, keep selling, stay safe.
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