It's often said, it's not what you know, it's who you know. This is especially true for salespeople. Look at Tyrion Lannister from HBO's Game of Thrones as an example. How many times have we watched him cheat death or work out a compromise leveraging his networking skills?
Luckily, you need to close deals not cheat death! Even so, your personal network is more important than ever, and not just for people early in their sales career. When we were starting Upsider, we researched what impacts high sales performance. We discovered that for some time, the research has shown that if you stop networking, you stop performing. To be clear, networking is not just for building great sales careers, but also maintaining them. This further supported our thesis focused on using data to make long lasting connections and better sales career decisions.
More recently, data on the power of networks is everywhere. Salespeople are 4.2x more likely to get an appointment with a prospect if there is a personal connection with a buyer. Employee referrals are the proven as one of the best ways to hire new employees. 84% of global consumers believe recommendations are the most trustworthy sources of information about products. If you look across these broad trends, it clearly shows that investing in your personal and professional networks will deliver ROI across many areas of your life.
As a high sales performer, being a good networker means targeting the right people, and getting out there to meet as many of them as possible. It's how to increase sales, meet potential clients, partners, helpful resources, other tech companies, future teammates, and even future jobs. It takes work, and can easily be forgotten as you go about the daily grind of building and closing your sales funnel. So be diligent and get organized. Make the effort to operationalize your efforts by grabbing a coffee or even setting up a quick call with one or two new people every month. In addition, here are a few recommendations on how to make it happen.
It always amazes me when I proactively reach out to someone to connect them with a mutually beneficial intro and they decline. In my experience, most people leave intro meetings having learned something, figuring out a way to help each other, or making additional connections through each other's networks. Why would you say no to that? It also doesn't matter if they are more or less experienced, you can learn as much from someone with 10 year more experience as you can from someone with 10 years less experience. You never know where it could lead. A new job, a client referral, an employee referral, a partnership opportunity, or a great friendship. I know you're busy (we all are), but if the signs of a symbiotic relationship are there, take the meeting!
The best way to build a network is to have a give-first approach. Before meeting, do some research and think about the value you can provide them. It could be meeting other people in your network, talking about what works in your sales pitch, introducing potential clients, partnerships, employer intros, etc. This is one of Gary Vaynerchuk's core principles, and will lead to stronger relationships. Give, give, give, ask.
Do you know the next step (or two) you want to take in your career? Do you have enough perspective on your sales commission or compensation plan? Spend some time thinking about the people and relationships that will provide the information and assistance to get you there. Set up a plan and get out and meet the people who can help you move along that path. For example, if you're looking to move from mid-market sales to enterprise sales, find the companies that can put you on that track. They will be able to best leverage your historical performance and will have a familiar sales process. Once you identify them, figure out who to meet within those organizations and start working on ways to get an intro meeting. Don't forget: give, give, give, ask.
Intros can come from friends, but you can also use some hustle to build your own network. Here are a few options:
We spend a lot of time thinking about this topic at Upsider. In particular, how it relates to salespeople meeting employers who can leverage their historical performance data, offer higher paying sales jobs, and put them in positions with the highest propensity to crush their numbers. So, if you're interested in talking about sales, sales hiring, tech, Game of Thrones or even cycling, let's grab a coffee!