Networking and meeting new people is an element of sales that will never go away. When you stop meeting new people, your sales will come to a screeching halt and take a sharp turn for the worse. Sales people who consistently network and get their name and company in front of new people will build long term business relationships that foster sales growth and increased performance.
Effective prospecting is a numbers game. It is nearly impossible to debate that fact. The more people you meet, the more potential customers you will identify. As you identify potential customers, your targeted sales and marketing efforts become more effective, and the qualified prospects you identify enter your sales pipeline.
Top performing sales people tell everyone who they are, where they work and what they sell. If sales is your profession, you must be prepared to land in selling situations at anytime. Whether you are at the grocery store or at a social event, your future customers are all around you. To illustrate this point, I would like to share an embarrassing, yet powerful networking story with you.
About two years ago, I received a call from an old friend who invited me to a Boston Celtics game. Having not seen my friend in a while, I accepted the invitation and went to the game.
We arrived at the game and began the walk to our seats. I noticed that we were climbing several sets of stairs and were so high above the basketball court that the players looked like ants. Yes, my friend had purchased the commonly known “nosebleed seats” and invited me to join him. What a guy!
About half way through the game, the Celtics were getting demolished (surprise) and the stadium was nearly empty. We looked around and decided to move out of our nosebleed seats and down into empty seats where we would have a better view of the game. We happened to find two seats that were only a few rows back from the court. There was a gentleman sitting in a seat next to the two empty seats, so I asked him if the seats were being used. He replied “No, make yourself at home”. As we watched the game, I began to have small conversation with the person next to me. He eventually explained to me that my friend and I were sitting in his seats, which happened to be season ticket seats that he owned. He had a few friends planning to come to the game, but they were unable to make it.
As our conversation continued, I learned that he was the CEO of a technology company in Boston. We had a lot of commonalities, such as our summer vacation destination as well as interests in hobbies and sports. Over the years, we developed a good relationship, kept in touch and spoke on a regular basis. Although we never did business together, there was a mutual interest to stay connected.
Recently, I conducted a sales training seminar in Bedford, NH. I decided to extend an invitation to the gentlemen I had met at the Celtics game. Having a technology company and a need for professional development, he decided to send one of his sales people to attend the workshop. I remember my initial reaction after he accepted my invitation…I kept thinking about how our relationship developed. I sat next to a complete stranger at a basketball game. I then learned I was sitting in his season ticket seats. We kept in touch and eventually did business together. We have also made recent plans to meet in a place close to both of our summer vacation retreats and play golf. I am sure our business relationship will continue to develop.
Most sales people can tell you a story or two of unique and unexpected opportunities to connect with future customers. The important message to remember is that business relationships often begin in places where you don’t expect them. Be ready!