Industry Insights Report: Does Your Network Suffer from Sameness?

Learn how to make networking more manageable for your sales team so they enjoy it more and achieve better results.

January 27, 2017

  • network-sameness

“Most professionals build their network over time through proximity – people from your business school study group, or colleagues from your current company or past jobs,” says Dorie Clark, author of “Stand Out Networking.” “You may have a few outliers in the mix, but unless you’ve been deliberate about your networking, the vast majority of people you know probably work in the same field or industry as you. It may seem innocuous, but that inadvertent myopia can put you at serious professional risk.”

How Does This Apply to Sales Teams?

Why should sales leaders care if the “vast majority” of their teams’ connections consist of colleagues and people within the industry? After all, the fact that your team’s connections are in the same industry means you’re finding and engaging the right people, right?

For the most part, yes. But considering that 84% of B2B buyers begin their purchasing process with a referral, it’s not enough to connect with a potential buyer, build the relationship until the buyer reaches a decision, and then let the relationship remain hidden in a “connections” collection for the rest of time.

We recently published a post about the power of the written thank you note. In it, we explained how sales trainer Tom Hopkins achieved a 98% referral rate in three years by becoming a self-described “thank you note fool.” Two tips that stood out were Hopkins’ recommendations to consider sending thank you notes “after final refusal,” and “after they buy from someone else.”

These aren’t tactics most sales pros would consider. If you’ve been in sales long enough, though, you know that opportunities can come from anywhere. Often when you least expect them. But it’s not about luck. Not in the long run anyway.

Not all Connections Are Created Equal

In his book, “The Tipping Point,” bestselling author Malcom Gladwell introduced us to connectors – that “handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.” (It’s interesting to note that Gladwell’s other two personality types were “salespeople” and “mavens”).

Some of your prospects are connectors. Suppose that when researching a prospect, you notice that she actively engages with her very large network and belongs to several professional organizations. You use your research to secure a meeting and begin to work with her on a possible deal. Everything is going great, but as you dig in further, you realize that your solution isn’t the best fit for her needs. Bummer, because you had a great relationship going.

These are the occasions when folks like Tom Hopkins can’t send that heartfelt thank you note soon enough. These are those pivotal relationships that superstar sales pros nurture and others neglect. These are the types of relationships that help sales pros start their month at quota so they don’t have to sweat it out.

Help Your Team Become Deliberate Networkers

In the title of this post, we posed the question: Does your network suffer from sameness? There are two ways “sameness” can be problematic for sales teams:

  1. Connecting with only like-minded people in close proximity, limiting the effective reach of reps and sales teams alike.
  2. Treating each connection the same.

While you can motivate and train your team to embrace networking on a broader scale, the second problem, treating each connection the same, is one you can tackle this week.

Part of the reason sales pros don’t engage with their network is because “networking” and “relationship building” is perceived as a tall order. When people say, “You’ve got to engage with your network,” many are thinking, “I’ve got 500+ connections, where do I start?”

Clark recommends taking a professional network inventory. “Who are the 5 – 10 people you spend the most time with?” she asks. “Next, make a list of your ‘outer circle’ – the 50 or so people who matter the most in your professional life, noting whether they are inside or outside your company, and whether they share your profession.”

Deliberate networking doesn’t just happen. By making networking more manageable for your team, and helping each team member identify their “outer circle,” you’re also making it more enjoyable. That’s an approach that can solve network sameness on both fronts.

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