Helping Other People Sell
The best way to start a relationship with a prospect and to maintain a strong relationship with existing customers is to introduce people who you think can use each other's services. The more you help others to succeed, the more successful you will become. When you genuinely help others to become successful, they will look for ways to help you in turn. This is an ideal referral system.
This system is known as networking. For sales professionals, networking means making it a priority to meet and talk with as many people as possible. This includes people you come into contact with in person, on the phone, and through e-mail.
A smile is an instant networking tool—it helps put you and the other person at ease and be more receptive to conversation. Your ability to sell is based on the quality of the relationship that you establish with a potential customer. Most people are more forthcoming with information if they feel that the sales rep they're talking to is friendly.
Networking also involves introducing one group of people to another. The best and most comfortable way to do this is over a meal. At breakfast, most people are emotionally present to listen and may have more energy than at other times of the day. From a psychological point of view, morning is a prime time for gatherings of small groups with only a few people present. This way you don't bombard their morning with loudness and too many conversations to follow easily.
Lunch is a good time of the day to introduce several people at once. From a psychological point of view, most people have gotten in several hours of work and interacting with others by that point, and they're in a “busier” mode than during breakfast.
Dinners are similar to breakfasts in that they require a less noisy environment and should demand less energy of everyone present. People are tired and looking for an opportunity to unwind. They are usually emotionally available, if you can work within this framework. Try to choose a restaurant that serves lighter food, as you do not want your attendees to fall asleep after eating a heavy meal.
Throwing parties allows you to introduce a number of people to each other from several different industries and walks of life who may not ordinarily meet one another. It does not matter whether the party is small or large. The important point to remember at parties is to keep a sharp eye out for anyone not interacting or who looks bored. Giving parties is real work, but “profitable” as well, because you can build valuable and lasting business relationships with individuals whom you may not otherwise have had much contact with.
Affiliation programs are widely used online for networking. These allow you to point your customers to other people who might be able to offer something to them. It's an easy way to make a referral. If you have a Web site, then you have the opportunity to provide links to the Web sites of other sales professionals you admire and respect for their expertise and professionalism. You can create a “Resource” section on your Web site or brochure where you list your affiliates.
Giving oral or written testimonials of positive experiences with other sales professionals is another form of networking. No amount of paid advertising is as influential as word-of-mouth advertising such as testimonials. Successful sales professionals understand the importance of keeping clients happy and asking for a comment or a letter that they can use in their advertising, on their Web sites, and in their brochures.
Be careful with alcohol during networking sessions. Having a glass of wine with dinner may be appropriate, but don't encourage alcohol consumption among your guests or overindulge yourself. This is a business meeting for you, and being drunk or even a little tipsy can lose you the sale and the customer.