To be successful in sales, you need to make connections—but not just with your existing customers. This is where networking comes in.
Also read: 3 Online Professional Networking Tips ALL Salespeople Must-Know
- Networking as a Sales Strategy
- 1. Know Who to Approach
- 2. Get the Conversation Rolling
- 3. Listen Actively
- 4. Know Your “Elevator Pitch”
- 5. Exit with Class
- 6. Be Consistent
- 7. Follow up
- Networking Dos and Don’ts – Don’t Be ‘That Guy’
- The Importance of Networking in Sales – Increase Your Net Worth
- “Your Network Is Your Net Worth”
- Bottom line: Here’s how to make your network your net worth.
Networking as a Sales Strategy
Networking can help you generate business leads and get feedback on your products or services. The most important parts of networking are, first, just getting out there and making yourself known— letting the world (or the room) know what you do. As the famous saying goes, “it’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.”
While getting out there and meeting people can be daunting and a bit awkward, there are several ways to make it easier, several of which we’ll discuss below.
Read on for seven networking tips for sales professionals:
1. Know Who to Approach
When walking into a room full of groups of people chatting, it can be hard to know who to approach. First, start with people standing alone as they’re probably also looking for someone to talk to. Make eye contact, smile, and approach.
Secondly, look for groups of three or other odd numbers. Chances are, 1 person in the group isn’t actively involved in the conversation and would welcome you joining the conversation.
Also, pay attention to the group’s body language. Are they standing with a large opening that allows them to see the room? If so, that means they are open to or are looking for other people to join them. Groups that are tightly bundled together are often in a deep conversation, which could be jarring to interrupt.
Also, always look for someone making eye contact with you. You might find someone standing in a group that is getting bored and is looking for someone new to engage with.
Read Our Guide On Building A Referral Network Here
2. Get the Conversation Rolling
Once you’ve approached someone, it’s time to start the conversation. There are several ways to do this.
- Consider having a few general ice-breakers in your back pocket. You could open with, “What a full event. What do you think about the food?” Or “Hi. I’m [insert name]. It’s my first time at this event. Do you come often?” Opening with something personal allows the relationship to build first, and questions around what each other does will naturally follow.
- Is the person’s company on their name tag? Use their company as a conversation starter by saying either, “I haven’t come across your company yet, I’d love to know more about what you do.” Or, I’ve used your services before and love them. What do you do with the company?” Show an interest in the acquaintance’s organization to try to build common ground.
- Drop names of people they may know or acquaintances you have in common. For example, you can say, “I just talked to so-and-so the other day and…” This establishes commonalities between you, and people usually respond better to you when they think you care about their interests. Get the other person to talk about themselves and listen attentively. Your questions should guide the conversation as opposed to your explanations.
- Try to find out who will be there and do some research on them. You can then use this information to spark up a conversation.
3. Listen Actively
Listen attentively and ask questions with the goals of learning something and making a connection. Don’t be the person that is just waiting for an opportunity to talk about yourself. Listen, pay attention, and be truly interested in what the other person has to say. Always ask questions to learn more about the other person.
Another tip is to remember the other person’s name. Use their name in the conversation to build a connection and to help you remember it. Watch my video interview with memory guru Nishant Kasibhatla to learn more tips around remembering people’s names.
4. Know Your “Elevator Pitch”
An elevator pitch is your answer to the question, “What do you do?” or “What are you looking for?” The concept is based on the scenario where you’re riding the elevator, someone asks what you do, and you only have sixty seconds to make a good impression before one of you gets off the elevator. Truth be told, no one actually talks in elevators, but I’m sure you get the point.
It should be concise (between 30 and 60 seconds) but interesting, and it shouldn’t tell people what your job title is, but rather what problem you solve. For example, if you’re a copywriter, you could say, “I help businesses create content that turns users into customers.”
There are some essential elements of a good pitch. It needs to be concise and clear. You should be able to explain what you do in sixty seconds or less. Your pitch needs to be targeted. This means it should be directed at a specific market or audience. It should name whom you help. Lastly, a pitch needs to be powerful so that you can impact people and get some results.
It’s also useful for your pitch to tell a story. People like stories. And stories help to make it easier for people to understand how your product or service can help someone like them because in telling the story, you’re actually demonstrating how you’ve helped that “someone like them” in the past.
One element of a perfect pitch is the hook. A hook is something irresistible, something that gets people’s attention. It grabs them by the collar and has them wanting to learn more. When they want to hear more, they’ll ask you to tell them more.
5. Exit with Class
Sometimes the person you’re speaking to won’t let you get a word in or keeps complaining about their boss—or perhaps the conversation is just coming to a natural close. How do you exit in a way that’s not awkward?
One great way to make a graceful exit is by introducing them to an acquaintance at the event or someone you think they may connect with. You could also say something along the lines of “Well, let me know how that project goes; I’d love to hear how it turns out,” or “Have you seen anyone from (company name) yet? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.”
6. Be Consistent
Networking can be awkward for some, but if you go often, you’ll get more comfortable. Go to the same group more than three times so you can talk to the same people and build relationships. You can’t just go one time and decide it doesn’t work! As we know, people buy from people they know, like, and trust. It’s hard to do that in 1 interaction.
7. Follow up
Once you’ve talked with some people and exchanged information, you must follow up. Reaching out can be beneficial even if you don’t have projects, mutual acquaintances, or upcoming events to connect over; the person may help you in the future or introduce you to someone else of benefit to you.
Send them a message soon after the event; say it was nice to meet them and reference something you talked about. Set-up a more in-depth meeting if there was synergy.
Networking is a vital part of sales. Follow these networking tips for sales professionals and become more adept at approaching people, starting and exiting a conversation, explaining what you do, listening, and following up after the event.
Networking Dos and Don’ts – Don’t Be ‘That Guy’
At an event, you can either build meaningful connections with the right people or be labeled that guy who doesn’t understand networking’s unwritten rules. If you’re unsure what I mean by that, you’re probably now worried that you are that guy; check out our networking tips for sales professionals below to avoid common mistakes!
Don’t – Focus Only on Yourself
The most rudimentary mistake made by Sales Professionals is approaching an event with a mindset of being there to get, not to give. Of course, we all have a professional agenda; we network because we want to connect, get our foot in the door, or get close to an all-important decision-maker.
You’re having a good conversation – you think – and he’s just nodding his head, or she’s just agreeing, but she’s just ready to pounce and tell you all about her business and what she wants. Don’t be that guy!Tom Abbott
The problem with this approach is that it’s painfully obvious and quite frankly shows you’re just here for yourself. People will be less likely to engage with you and reluctant to trust you; after-all, business networking is a two-way street.
Do – Ask Questions
You need to express interest casually to avoid representing yourself as that guy. The most natural method is to ask questions, show curiosity, and learn all about them! Ask questions about their business and why they’re here; How did they hear about the event? Where do they work? What’s their role? or even, what are the biggest challenges they’re facing in their business?
Asking broad questions is useful, but having a strategy is even better. If we consider that building relationships is often a long-term process, you want to ensure you’re meeting the right people to avoid wasting your time on people insignificant to your business goals. So before attending an event, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Whom are you trying to meet?
- What types of companies are you trying to connect with?
- Do you already know someone who works at one of your target companies?
- How can you strengthen existing professional friendships?
As much as I love speakers, they always want to promote themselves. Don’t be that guy.Tom Abbott
Do – Listen
I learned many years ago about Sales Networking; It’s more important to be interested than to be interesting. Stop focusing on trying to sell and concentrate on being an active listener. By expressing genuine interest in the person in front of you, you’re making them feel valued, will build trust quickly, and naturally creates a genuine personal connection. As the conversation progresses, you might find that you harbour common goals, different ways in which you could help each other, or even help your business with a specific need.
So, how can you become an active listener and steer clear from the egocetric personality of that guy? Here are our favorite techniques for conciously improving your listening techniques:
- When it’s your turn to respond, make sure you reply with something they’ve said. It’ll prove that you’re actually listening and engaged.
- Turn off your phone. Forget you even have a phone (unless it’s to take down someone’s details, obviously). Whilst technology has revolutionized communication. Nobody wants to engage with a cellphone zombie; engage with the people in front of you.
- Maintain steady eye-contact; probably the easiest way to show interest and engagement with someone you’ve just met.
Networking is a unviersal constant for us, so with these Networking Tips for Sales Professionals you’ll start to hone the skills needed to identify valuable connections, engage and build new long-term business relationships.
The Importance of Networking in Sales – Increase Your Net Worth
You might have heard the phrase ‘Your network is your net worth,’ but are you actually doing anything to leverage your network? When was the last time you went to a networking event to expand your network or built stronger relationships with your existing connections?
Think about it. The more connections you have, the more opportunities you have to increase your revenue. Depending on how influential your connections are for your industry, the more likely you are to succeed with your business or personal goals.
“Your Network Is Your Net Worth”
This is one of my
The new form of networking is not about climbing a ladder to success; it’s about collaboration, cocreation, partnerships, and long-term values-based relationshipsAuthor Porter Gale, Your Network Is Your Net Worth: Unlock the Hidden Power of Connections for Wealth, Success, and Happiness in the Digital Age
There are on average about two hundred connections behind every person, so wouldn’t you love to build a network of connections who know who you are and what you do? Take our advice and examine your network, who’s complementary and not a competitor? Then start reaching out to people with a view of taking conversations from online to offline in order to set a collaboration in motion.
I’ve recently collaborated with 2 social media influencers (Natalia Wiechowski and Andreea Zoia) whilst visiting Dubai. We tapped each other’s networks and created valuable videos that we shared on our respective platforms, thereby creating more revenue for all of us.
Check out the latest collaboration with Natalia Wiechowski and Andreea Zoia.
While it sounds wildly counter-productive to avoid selling per se, you’ll actually gain more attention from busy Sales Professionals if you just stop asking for something and focus on the relationship instead.
Networking events are busy, time-consuming and honestly very tiring! Imagine you’ve approached someone who’s been pitched to the whole event. Do you think they want to hear your pitch now? By adopting a less pushy approach, you’ll actually expand your network with real relationships – not just fake connections.
Here’s how I measure the value of my relationships: Do I get energy from interacting with this person, or do I lose energy?Hiten Shah,
If you’re looking to move your networking from in-person to online, check out this podcast we did on Digital Networking Strategies.
Bottom line: Here’s how to make your network your net worth.
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The result? You’ll reach customers at a scale you’ve never been able to do before. Join today and develop the skills needed to be the online professional networking champion of your industry.
5 thoughts on “Networking Tips for Sales Professionals”
Great Tips as always… Thank you Tom
Thank you for sharing these tips. Your ice breaker questions in #2 are so much better than the typical “What do you do?”! And your idea for gracefully leaving a conversation is spot on. How to do this is one question my clients ask all the time.
You’re most welcome Lori! I’m going to take my own advice and ask you a question hahaha. I’m curious, what exactly is Zen Rabbit? 😀
Thanks for asking. Zen Rabbit is the name of my company. I help the quiet people get past their fear of networking so they can build relationships that serve their businesses.
Great tips Tom! The no. 7 we often to forget. This really something we (I) should do from now on. Gracias, and hello from Indonesia 🙂
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