The biggest challenge with most service based businesses is trying to get a face to face meeting with a potential client. Cold calling clients tends to be a necessary evil that evokes some anxiety between both parties and much effort on the part of the salesperson/business. This process involves finding customers that may need your service, locating the primary decision maker, creating a solid impression that you have something important to offer, and then showing how the client would benefit from your services.
Many salespeople become frustrated with the time, energy, money, and gas wasted on either unqualified or uninterested leads. Keep in mind it takes an average of 7 contacts before a sale is made. There’s also the negative connotation of being “that pesky salesperson.”
Check out these stats, 20 Shocking Sales Stats That Will Change How You Sell.
Networking can be a valuable and underrated tool in a business’ success. There are a variety of ways to network that can achieve much better results than relying on cold calling as a way to contact clients.
Why Networking Matters
While networking has been a catchphrase for awhile in business, but it’s even more relevant today than ever. With cold calling, even after you reached a decision maker or a person of influence, you have to build rapport, earn buyer’s confidence and give some background of the services you offer and how they could benefit from those services. With multiple attempts to either find a decision maker or to just see if there’s a need, a salesperson spends a lot of valuable time chasing leads and not closing deals.
Look at these stats that Kevin Trokey found on Linkedin;
- 48% of salespeople never follow up with a prospect
- 25% of salespeople make a second contact and stop
- 12% of salespeople only make three contacts and stop
- Only 10% of salespeople make more than three contacts
- 2% of sales are made on the first contact
- 3% of sales are made on the second contact
- 5% of sales are made on the third contact
- 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
- 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact
With networking, there’s already a connection by affiliation with people within your social network to the client. Even if they are not familiar with your product or services, they can get a less biased perspective on who you are from your shared network circle.
Imagine in the early days of sales. After doing the hard work of building your business through cold calling, you then use your current clientele to recommend you to other potential clients. They would describe their satisfaction with your services while building a perceived level of trust with your company. The potential client would then be open to hearing more of what services you have to offer.
Renea Johnson of RR Donnelly, owners of Bridgetown Printing in Portland, Oregon reveals, “Using Social Network, such as Linkedin, allowed me to navigate larger clients and gauge upper management while bypassing the gatekeepers. I see what common interests that we have and use that as a way to build rapport. I’m so busy working my network, that I don’t even have time to do cold calling.”
While we looked at the disadvantages of cold calling, let’s take a look at how networking creates better results.
With networking, you have a captive audience of people that have a connection with you, either through social media, group organizations, or a referral partnership. You’re able to spend less time building credibility and more time getting to know the needs of the customer. Another key benefit is being able to gain access to the decision maker much sooner while saving time and energy. If a client needs your services, they can research, you, your company, and get valuable insight from members of your network on how well you’ve done business in the past. There a several different types of networking used to gain access to key decision makers.
Networking Through Social Media
Social media such as Linkedin, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are ways to display your services to people on your network. Linkedin allows you to find key officers within a company and who you know in common.
Renea Johnson of RR Donnelly says, “When looking for top executives of a company, it’s bad etiquette to contact that person without getting a proper referral from shared people on your network. Contacting them without one is almost as bad as cold calling and can lead to a bad first impression. People tend to be more guarded of who they allow to contact them, thus the need for the gatekeeper.”
Facebook allows you to create a business page so you can post what services you offer, dates of events you sponsor, and people endorse your product through “likes.” Your facebook friends can then share your page with other people that would be interested in your services. Google+, similar to Facebook, also allows you to post articles of interests that may engage your audience to find out more about your services. They can also view Google reviews on your business, as well as a link to your website. Twitter is effective in giving you the ability to tweet upcoming events, company specials, and current announcements.
The technology age has created a trend that when people need services or products, everything is just a cell phone call or click away. Cell phone mobility makes it easy for prospects to find you immediately when they need you.
“I have had several people contact me looking for authentic signs for their business through social media. When the need arose, they checked their social media contacts to find my services, looked at other comments from our mutual friends and contacted me to see if I can help them. Most of my business comes from either people in my social network or through my network of friends and colleagues. Currently, I have more work than I can handle,” says Jeff Meyers of Modern Artifact.
Networking With Friends
Another networking outlet is through friends and family. These people have a vested interest in your success. They want you to succeed and often end as one of your best advocate.
Dana Austin Griggs of Dana Austin Griggs Real Estate Group had this to say. “Being a real estate agent and active in my community, I get most of my referrals from past clients, friends and family. I constantly send out a general email that shows a house that is unique, to all of my people in my network. One day I bumped into a lady that says that not only has she heard of me through other clients, but she has looked forward to receiving my emails. She felt that she virtually knew me even before speaking with me. Getting involved in community events has been a great way for me to not only support my community, but for prospects to meet me in person. Keeping my name in area allows people to see a face with my marketing”.
Potential clients that you don’t get business from may not have a need for your service, but could see some value in what you have to offer. These individuals are a great resource to keep in your network. They tend to be happy to pass along your information, even referring you directly to people who are in need of your services.
When the time comes for a past potential client to be in need of your services, they can see how well you handle people they referred to you, and be more inclined to do business with you. Which proves that an opportunity that is dead now can come alive in the future.
Other Networking Options
Network or referral partners is a beneficial source for qualified leads. They are usually in an industry that caters to specific clients that share the same needs.
For example, a realtor may connect with a title or mortgage company. A business solutions representative may connect with either a commercial bank or CPA that have clients opening up new businesses. These referral partners have clients that are pre-qualified and in need of what you have to offer.
Special organizations like golf clubs, charter groups and charities are organizations that have members with either specific needs or have a in-depth network of people that they can refer you to.
Finally, there are trade shows. While not as efficient as some of the other networking sources, trade shows are important. Trade shows usually include a gathering of prospective leads that are looking for solutions along with other experts in the industry. There are several channels of business opportunity either with new clients or referral partners that share the same type of client but offer different services. It can be more or less like cold calling, but the leads tend to have a common interest that you can cater to.
Building Success Through Networking
A strong network base allows a salesperson to spend less time finding clients and more time meeting clients’ needs in order to close the sale. However, even after building a valuable network base, the next step is to make sure you stay relevant.
Dana Austin Grigg summarizes by saying, “The best advice I can offer is to always leave something for a prospect to remember you by. I’m always dropping of holiday cards with a personal touch, custom pens, business cards. Even dropping off candy or a bag of coffee is a good way to show good will. Also, with current clients, drop off a gift that show you appreciate their business. Things that represent their interests like a golf hat for golfers, a bottle of wine for winery buffs, or a cd of their favorite music artist shows not only you care, but you have listened to what they said are interest of theirs. Think they might feel obligated to send you more business?”
With networking being more efficient, cold calling can still be a viable source for business. There are times when a salesperson needs to venture outside of their social and business network. Occasional cold calling may open the doors to opportunities that are overlooked.
As a salesperson, I’ve gone to appointments that haven’t worked out. Instead of wasting a trip, I’ve talked to other businesses in the area and found ones in dire need of my services. That visit not only produced a sale, but two other referrals. The goal in sales is to find buyers in need of a solution, while showing what you have to offer will meet their needs. If you own a business or are a salesperson and don’t have a form of networking as part of your marketing strategy, you’re missing opportunity that would lead to your success.
Thank you to Renea Johnson at Strategic Business Development; Bridgetown Printing; Dana Austin Griggs at Real Estate at Windermere Cronin & Caplan Realty; and Jeff Meyers at Modern Artifacts for their contributions to this article.