One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of networking. Every connection bears the potential for meeting new clients, getting advice from industry experts, or earning a referral. While machines are actively winning their place in everyday lives, it’s people who can drive our business forward.
Networking is essential not only for entrepreneurs. Sales professionals should also build connections with others. What’s more, they should “strategically network” to ensure every click leads to conversion, and relationships pave the way to collaborations.
For experts in digital sales, having a diverse network means getting speedier access to international markets, acquiring knowledge of new trends, and keeping a finger on the pulse on the ever-evolving digital environment.
However, it is not just about the quantity. It’s the quality of these interactions that really counts. Cold pitches and impersonal emails are a thing of the past. You need to be authentic and genuine.
How? In this guide, we’ll share strategic networking tips for establishing professional connections in digital sales. So, if you’re ready to uncover more ways to generate leads, join us today.
- Overselling Oneself or the Product
- Not Respecting Boundaries in the Digital Realm
- Neglecting Continuous Learning and Adaptation
What Is the Role of Authenticity in Strategic Networking?
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Every sales professional wants to be seen in a world flooded with digital content. But how can you stand out when everyone else employs the same strategies, sales pitches, and even catchphrases? The answer is authenticity.
When digital sales first started to take off in the early 2000s, the rules were different. Some fancy algorithms or flashy presentations did work. But today, the online market is overflowing with products, and it’s customers who set the tone of interactions.
An Asendia survey showed that 75% of US shoppers spend more with brands they perceive to be authentic.
Consider your own online interactions. What would resonate with you more: a letter that understands your needs or the one with a solely sales language? Of course, it’s the former one.
Here are some tips on how to remain genuine when nurturing professional connections:
- Preserve the human touch even if you employ artificial intelligence and automation.
- Conduct research on the person you’re pitching to understand their needs and concerns.
- Listen actively to respond to the person organically; don’t just follow the rehearsed plan.
- If a product isn’t right for a client, say so. Honesty goes a long way.
- Offer value, for example, a related article or tool to simplify a person’s life.
- Ask for feedback to adjust your strategy, better serve, and connect with your clients.
What Are You Planning to Achieve?
An effective sales networking strategy starts with defining goals. It’s like creating a map to set a direction for your progress. Why should you settle on the aims for networking? The short answer is to narrow down your search.
Suppose you go to a networking event (be it virtual or face-to-face) aiming to “just connect”. You’ll chat with different people and get dozens of business cards but no real leads or opportunities. But if you had decided on your goals beforehand, you would have been far more likely to hit the mark.
Let’s assume you need to find three potential collaborators for your upcoming project. If that were your goal, you would handle the situation differently. For instance, you wouldn’t waste time on generic chit-chat but ask specific questions like, ”Have you worked on projects similar to X?” or “Do you have experience with Y market segment?”
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Key Performance Indicators to Track
There are several signals indicating whether you’re heading in the right direction in your strategic networking, including:
- New Connections per Month: Aim for a certain number to grow your network steadily.
- Engagement Rate: Track the number of responses, messages, likes, shares, and other activities referring to the engagement level.
- Referral Count: Referral marketing statistics demonstrate that word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or family members increase the chances of purchasing a product or service for 83% of Americans. Measure how many of your existing contacts bring you new potential leads and partners.
Note: These goals may differ according to your main business goals. If you want to expand into a new market, you may track the number of new connections in that area.
A Few Pointers to Define Your Networking Goals
- Aim for long-term goals. Consider where you see the company in the next year or five years and what you need to reach that destination.
- Set SMART goals (stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). According to this principle, you should not just aim to “expand the network” but to “connect with ten industry leaders in the next quarter”.
- Be flexible. The digital world is always evolving. So, what worked in the past may become obsolete now, requiring you to reconsider your goals.
Types of Networks: Internal, External, and Virtual
Where can you look for new professional connections? There are three types of networks: internal, external, and virtual. Let’s overview each of them.
An internal network is your company team members. These can be marketing, product, and customer service specialists. A case in point is a marketing department that possesses a huge amount of information about your target audience. By delving into their preferences and dislikes, you can tailor the sales pitch to be more relevant.
The product team, in turn, can explain the ins and outs of what you’re selling and cast light on upcoming features and updates. And finally, customer service, working directly with clients, can inform you about the most common pain points.
Sometimes, the best ideas and chances extend beyond your closest proximity. That’s where an external network comes into play, with the constituents as follows:
- Competitors. Yes, even though you wouldn’t cooperate with your rivals in the first place, looking at their strategies can provide essential industry insights and even potential partnership opportunities.
- Industry groups. Associations or groups relevant to your company can also be a goldmine for contacts, partnerships, and staying up to date on market changes.
- Influencers. Industry influencers can promote your products or services, engage loyal followers, and share information on their needs and pain points.
At last, you can fish for potential leads and partners on virtual venues: online communities, social media, and webinars. Building a virtual network is easier as opportunities are just a click away.
So, dive into platforms like LinkedIn groups, Reddit, or industry-specific forums. Participate in discussions with professionals and potential leads.
Do the same on other platforms that you may have considered as venues for posting images and videos and leisure activities: Twitter and Facebook. If you want to position yourself as a thought leader, host and attend webinars to connect with like-minded professionals from all over the world.
Leveraging Instant Demos and Remote Sales Tools
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When pitching the product, you need dedicated tools to make the presentation more captivating. CrankWheel provides the solutions helpful for networking. Let’s take Instant Demos as an example.
This feature lets you save time on converting leads into customers, as you don’t have to schedule another call for a product overview.
You can quickly launch an instant demo with an inbound lead to walk the lead through your offering. Here are other benefits of CrankWheel’s Instant Demos:
- immediate engagement;
- personalized experience;
- the ability to collect feedback.
You can see the prospect’s reaction and tailor the demo on the fly, making it more relevant to the listener at the moment. As it’s a two-way conversation, you can listen to the person and improve your presentation for calls with other people.
But that’s not all. You can also access the remote sales tools to improve your networking strategies, including:
- Screen Sharing, allowing you to quickly show what you’re talking about, which speaks a thousand words.
- Instant feedback tools, a Preview Window, where you can track the progress of your presentation, when people lose their interest, and what attracts their attention the most.
- Post-Meeting Redirect to drive people to the needed page immediately after you end the screen sharing session.
4 Best Strategic Networking Tips for Building Sales Connections
1. Determine the Target Audience
It’s easy to make a connection nowadays, as it takes no more than several clicks. But the number of people in your network may mean nothing if they don’t share your interests and can’t benefit from your product.
That’s why you need to be more selective. When trying to connect with someone, there are a few things to take note of:
- industry knowledge and experience
- social media and online image
- current projects and initiatives the prospect is involved in.
But where can you find the ideal candidate? Start with local networking events. Local Chamber of Commerce meetings, regional business fairs, and community events can be pivotal in connecting with potential partners and clients close to home.
- Seek out local trade shows and go armed with your business card.
- Engage in local community work. It’s a win-win – networking plus giving back.
- Reach out to local educational bodies for industry-related seminars.
Plus, consider the potential of mastermind groups. These intimate, strategic groups allow professionals to exchange knowledge, challenges, and solutions. Either search for existing offers or organize your own group.
And remember: the more diverse it is, the broader perspective people can provide.
2. Ask the Right Questions
Conversational engagement is key to effective networking. Although some conversations may help you professionally, not all interactions must be business-related. Make friends, and ask about their jobs, experiences, and common interests.
Additionally, you’ll learn more about your professional connections and how you may support one another through networking.
People are most interested in themselves. So, one of the most effective strategic networking tips is turning the spotlight on others, not yourself. It involves the following:
- Asking open-ended questions. Questions requiring Yes/No answers may lead the conversation to a dead end. But you can find common ground if you expand it to Wh-questions like “Where do you see the biggest challenges in our industry in the next five years?” Inquire about the milestones and roadblocks encountered in your interlocutor’s professional or commercial journey.
- Actively listening. Active listening entails paying close attention to others, understanding what is being said, and then reacting. This builds trust. Paraphrase or summarize what you’ve heard. Maintain eye contact, nod affirmatively, and position your body towards the speaker.
3. Prepare for a Conversation
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You may count on improvisation. But it’s better to have at least a short and a longer pitch that you can access at any time, depending on the networking situation. This pitch entails thorough preparation, from outlining shared interests with the audience to exploring their activities, such as publications or participating in talk shows and podcasts.
Include the ways in which you can assist a person. Based on your research, try to anticipate where they might be heading in the next few months and how your expertise can help in that journey.
An organized person stands out. It shows commitment, professionalism, and intent when you make an effort to learn about the individual you are networking with. Here’s what to do:
- Jot down the information during research. Carry a notebook or use digital tools to easily remember the details during the discussion.
- Practice. Even though tailored pitches are unique to every person, they can follow a typical structure. It’s faster to adapt to each individual rather than starting from scratch.
4. Follow Up
Networking is a process, not a one-time event. You need to nurture the connections and stay on top of their minds. How? If the conversation seems successful, send a message to the person to promote further collaboration and stay connected. You can do it via email, which is a professional method of communication. But you can also suggest keeping in touch via calls and social media following. Those on the go may prefer a more agile approach.
Begin your message with a personalized detail, like mentioning some facts from your conversation. It can be a shared joke or insight.
Avoid copy-pasted phrases like “It was great connecting with you”. Try something unconventional like “Our conversation on [certain topic] really got me thinking”.
Regularly inform prospects about any updates, achievements, and opportunities. The message can include articles, case studies, or tools. Have your contacts achieved something? Congratulate them to show your genuine interest.
Finding New Opportunities
The digital marketplace is globalized, and you need to explore new leads in line with retaining existing ones. The key is to expand and diversify your professional connections.
How? By actively seeking industry events, webinars, and seminars. And it’s not only about your niche-specific ones.
We tend to associate with others who share our interests, but occasionally, going to activities that are a little beyond your specialty can open unexpected doors. For instance, while you may look into Magento 2 development services for your eCommerce needs, branching out to a seminar about AI or content creation can provide complementary insights.
You never know how people from backgrounds other than yours can help you and vice versa.
Here are some pointers on establishing rapport with others:
- Familiarize yourself with cultural peculiarities and international business etiquette.
- Tap into international platforms. If LinkedIn is your go-to resource in the US, consider exploring platforms like Xing in Germany or WeChat in China.
- Consider people with varied skill sets, from AI specialists to content creators.
Fostering Strong Relationships
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So now you have new acquaintances on your list. What’s next? As we’ve previously mentioned in our strategic networking tips, follow up on your contacts to cultivate lasting relationships. However, keep in mind that it’s more important to go deeper into your interactions instead of touching the base.
Liking posts is better than nothing. But to achieve meaningful relationships, engage in discussions, or share valuable insights.
Here, you may think, “But this requires too much time”. That’s right, so you need to prioritize your most valuable allies and direct your efforts there in the first place.
People are more likely to engage with you in a smaller group. Thus, it’s reasonable to set up meet-ups with few chosen guests to ensure deeper discussions and stronger bonds.
Next, think of how you can cooperate, be it marketing campaigns that leverage both your strengths or referral programs where you can offer new clients and opportunities to one another.
After undertaking such initiatives, ask for feedback. Maybe your partners or clients want to share what went well and what needs to be improved. Similarly, provide constructive feedback but make sure it contributes to mutual growth.
3 Avoidable Pitfalls in Sales Networking to Be Aware Of
1. Overselling Oneself or the Product
Even though you’re a salesperson, the first mistake to avoid is acting like a cliche salesperson. It means being too pushy, salesy, and desperate. But no one likes to be sold to. You’re a person before all else. Try to know the counterpart better, pick up cues, and tailor your pitch accordingly.
This strategy will guarantee the following results:
- You’ll appear more sincere and trustworthy.
- People will be more likely to do business with you.
- It’ll improve your reputation and secure more positive referrals.
2. Not Respecting Boundaries in the Digital Realm
Having your smartphone close to you makes it tempting to reach out anytime, anywhere. But repeatedly messaging someone or slipping into their direct messages at unexpected times can seem intrusive.
The solution: establish communication boundaries. A person may live in another timezone or use particular platforms for personal interactions rather than discussing business.
Respect these circumstances and employ scheduling tools like Calendly, Doodle, and Acuity Scheduling, to name a few.
3. Neglecting Continuous Learning and Adaptation
Networking skills are something that you develop, not gain once and for all. And as with other skills, it requires constant honing. Among the ways to improve your networking skills are as follows:
- Cultivate a learner’s mindset. Be open to fresh ideas and experiments. After all, those who steer clear of new tools and innovations like AI and ChatGPT, for example, will fall behind those who actively employ them to boost productivity.
- Attend webinars, engage in online courses, and participate in forums. While webinars let you learn about new trends from industry leaders, courses provide a structured approach to deepening expertise. As for forums, they offer more interactivity and allow everyone to voice their thoughts.
- Try various strategies and platforms to find the best fit. Individuals may respond better to different approaches. Test what works for them and what websites and venues bring more relevant counterparts.
To Sum Up
Sales networking is no longer the process of meeting people in person or limiting yourself to contacts in your geographical area. With new technologies emerging, you can find new professional connections in any part of the world.
But with simplicity comes more responsibility towards your counterparts. You need not just communicate with as many contacts as you can get but foster genuine and meaningful relationships.
As we wrap up, we’d like to remind you of some of the most crucial strategic networking tips:
- stay authentic;
- set clear goals;
- diversify your networks;
- leverage digital tools;
- regularly check-in;
- stay aware of pitfalls.
About the Author
Kate Parish is the chief marketing officer at Onilab, a full-service eCommerce agency with a focus on Magento. Kate has been working on diverse marketing strategies and activities for more than 8 years. In her pursuit to bring up top-notch marketing solutions, Kate is constantly exploring the topics of SEO, branding, SMM, PPC, and Magento PWA development.