We all know that networking is a necessary strategy for success. Whether you are at a trade show, Chamber of Commerce meeting, or even at that barbecue that you volunteered to cook at. Networking can help you create exposure about you, your product or your service in a way that is somewhat innocuous. What I mean by that is most people that go into networking mode become immediately transformed into an obnoxious and cacophonous billboard/foghorn about all their company offers.
Networking requires specific tactics and talents in order to be successful. We all know that listening is a huge tenant of the sale cycle. The old adage that “God gave us two ears and one mouth” would indicate that we should listen twice as much as we talk holds true. In networking the first tactic that I would suggest is balance.
I have been to thousands of networking events and if you strike up a conversation with someone and stand there and listen to them pontificate endlessly then shame on you. Work to control the conversation gently, inserting your sales message and company information all while being mindful of the time. Networking is about quality AND quantity. If you attend a networking event that lasts 2 hours and you talk to 3 people then you have missed the boat. Basically act like a Navy SEAL QRT (Quick Reaction Team); infiltrate, meet objective, no shots fired, ex-fil and move on.
The objective is to meet as many people as you can, share your information, get their information and move to the next person. Hopefully you know what to do with all the contacts that you made. If not, do a quick search here, we’ve got you covered.
In order to grow your company and develop a strong market share you must have a strong brand. There’s an old marketing phrase called The Rule of 7. It indicates that your brand needs to be seen seven times before it’s registered in someones mind. Your marketing message needs to be seen 7 times or your tag line needs to be read seven times. I have worked with dozens of companies where the company name is branded on all promotional material in Times Roman font. I’m certain that there is nothing more boring (or transparent!) than that presentation.
Now, it is true that there is a huge argument for repetition. I suppose if you were to take that same boring company name in Times Roman font and couple it with a massive (and expensive) marketing campaign, that would create recognition, but why would you want to do that or spend that kind of money?
Branding is in fact about repetition but let’s define branding. Dictionary.com (whatever happened to Noah Webster?) defines branding as the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design. The important reference in that definition is “distinctive design”. A good example of branding would be the insanely fast growth of Planet Fitness. A health club started here in NH. One tiny and simple contributor of their growth is giving away vinyl stickers for members cars. Ubiquitous branding and recognition would be an understatement!
Two of the most prodigious monikers of success are McDonald’s and Nike. Nike has been known to take out a double, full page ad in the Wall Street Journal and simply insert their swoosh, that’s all. Remarkably successful and ostensibly simple. How did they get to where they are today? In large part to repetition of branding.
We have worked with many companies teaching them the need for a logo and the art of repetition. There are some basic facts that need to be in place and one of those is to know your market. More on that in another post.
If I were to ask that question to the president or CEO of most companies they would say something akin to: “Well, they are a rowdy bunch so we tucked them in the back far away from the front entrance”. There are 2 things wrong with that sentence. First, the energy and excitement that most sales departments have should be highly visible to the rest of the company, not stowed away in the broom closet.
Most sales departments have an energy that can and should be contagious. It should invigorate and motivate the rest of the company. Sales quotas met resulting in cheers. Large new customers closed and celebrated. Energy and synergy popping from every desk. If this is not happening in your sales department then we should schedule a meeting! For the most part the energy that comes from a sales department should be enviable by the rest of the company and should pervade thought the hallways and offices.
The second thing wrong with that initial sentence is that the entire company should be viewed as the sales department. That may sound a bit lofty but in all reality, it’s very true. I have worked with many attorneys (Not your typical sales career) throughout my career and the main guidance always comes back to sales. This means that for an attorney, the most important aspect is sales not business functions, not human resources, not legal training but sales training. At first contact, when a customer walks through your door, even for a scheduled meeting, the sales process has begun. A friendly smile, a polite offer to fetch a cup of coffee, or an interested discourse about the weather can go a long way.
Once you meet with this person, they have seen a nice smile, had a cup of coffee, and have been distracted by a delightful conversation about the weather. I would say that is a great primer for the sales funnel. Once they are in your office and they are not yet a customer – guess what – you are now a sales person. It doesn’t matter if you are an attorney or a mechanic. You need to first sell them on why you are their best choice. The bottom line is that rather than condemning your salesforce allow your entire company to be part of the process and have the success that you have been yearning for.
Trust and relationships are an integral part of any sales cycle. Far too many sales people focus on the process of closing a sale and not the relationship being built. It is true that through the use of sales tactics like presumptive closes, agreement building and “if I, will you” you can close a sale. The problem arises when that person walks away and feels like he/she was sold something, they take pause and realize that you had your best interest in mind and not theirs.
Nobody wants to be sold anything, they want to buy something and as sales people it’s important that we make that distinction when we are in a sales environment. Long term relationships are the high fruit and the hard close is all about the low fruit. Knowing that the person you just sold something to will benefit from your product and service in the long term will almost always guarantee repeat business. Repeat business is far cheaper than acquiring new business. It will also prove more valuable with regards to testimonials and referrals.
A relationship is far more valuable and profitable than a sale. If you go into a sales opportunity with the myopic goal of closing the deal, you will not develop a solid sales funnel. Conversely, if you go into the same sales opportunity with the desire to learn about the prospect and their needs and goals, you will develop a more trust centric environment and your odds of getting the sale will be much higher. Going into a meeting with the sole desire of closing a deal and you don’t, you will have a difficult path ahead of you to regain the sale. However, if you have their best interest in mind and you don’t get the sale, you have a better opportunity for follow up and a later close which helps fill your pipeline.