Every Sales Manager will tell you about the ABCs, (Always Be Closing) and every sales rep should know that they must always be networking to have the opportunity to sell. The one thing to remember: be careful of your time. Networking incorrectly and you could network yourself out of a job.
Business networking is the best way to get your name, your brand, and products out into the community. There are so many groups, new and old that are out there, but how do you choose which ones are right for you? There is a spectrum of groups around that require fees and commitments of attendance, while others have no fees or commitments. Some groups are “Industry Exclusive.” Industry Exclusive means that you hold the seat and your competition is locked out. This can be beneficial as you build your relationship with each member. Everyone begins to rely on each other and it is as if you have that many more salespeople on your team.
You need to determine a budget for networking. Some are fee-based while others are not. Keep in mind that even non-fee groups still have activities like food or beverages that may require funds. There are some groups that have a small fee that will be donated to a charity, which is an excellent way to have some investment. With fee-based groups, its concept is that you buy that one “Industry Exclusive” seat and that seat is yours. Fees vary but when the synergy is right, the price is little compared to the value. In these types of groups, your attendance and participation are key. Meetings are held to a strict schedule with timers and you better have your elevator pitch ready and perfected to show very high professionalism. If you are the Real Estate Agent in that group, you lock out all other real estate agents from becoming a member. You need to be at each meeting, on time with referrals and thank yous for closed business to your “team.” This is needed to show support. It also benefits everyone as you build your relationship with each member and everyone begins to rely on each other. It is as if your group is now your team of salespeople.
Before you choose a networking group, realize first that whatever efforts you put into the group is a direct influence on what you will get out of it. Like a gym membership, you get no benefit by looking at the machines, you must use them. The more you show you care, the more people will respond and care what you do. The adage that “Givers Gain” is true and you will experience it when you network correctly.
There is the Chamber of Commerce in every town that offers some type of business group with which to be involved. Our local chapter calls it a LeadShare. It is industry exclusive and is part of the chamber membership, so there are no additional fees other than the membership. This is a good group to be part of as you meet the new businesses, as well as the long-term members that can help you in your business pursuits. Of course, there are other open networking opportunities within the Chamber.
Associations and Non-Profits are also great places to network. Every business should have some type of outreach to the community. Churches have events that need help. There are local grassroots efforts all around every town that need help. Find something that you are passionate about, join in, and get involved. Don’t think of selling, just think of meeting like-minded people to get positive things done. I have dubbed this the “Rotary Principle” because I was taught at a Rotary meeting that no one there really cared what you did, they wanted to know you could help.
Meet-ups and Facebook Groups will post different events. Find the ones with your interest and look for meetings or groups that support it. Look for Open Coffee in your area. These are little early morning stops that have a good local climate of people to discuss business needs. It is always important to have some type of learning opportunity during the meeting. After all, this is called Net-WORKING and not Net-TALKING. Always look for a group that you can contribute to, but one with which you are also getting something.
Where ever you choose to network, remember that you are not selling your products to the people in the group. It is your hope to build relationships so that the people in the group will trust you enough to refer their friends and family to you. Choose places to network that give you the opportunity to help others and give you more business knowledge. You will be more successful and you will be helping people along the way.