How To Build A Network That Works For You

Social media has had a huge impact not only on what’s in a network, but in the changing landscape of how to use it.

Networks have always played a pivotal role in the sales arsenal. Now, with the rise of social media and social networking – a big question facing sales people is, ‘what’s changed and how do I adapt?’

This article looks at 3 key components to building and maintaining a network that works for you in a new age. Learn how to cultivate a network that will pay dividends in years to come.

Building a Personal Brand

On the surface, building a personal brand sounds like an overwhelming task. The word “brand” has deep-rooted connotations of large enterprises, but let me allay your fears.

A brand is simply an entity’s magnetic pull. Do you have magnetic pull from your buyers, prospects, colleagues and peers? Here are some quick and easy tips you can integrate into your daily routine to help differentiate you from your competition.

  • Share great content

If you look at your buyers, they’re being influenced by thought leaders who they actively follow and admire. Follow these people and start consuming their ideas and best practices. I’m sure you’ll have your own thoughts on what they write. Send these thoughts to your top prospects and buyers and actively engage them in a conversation. This will demonstrate that you have a firm understanding of their world. Do not focus on selling: focus on helping them. Add value at every turn and your good deed will be appreciated. Over time, credibility is built and banked.

  • Write your own content

Setting up a blog has never been easier with the plethora of free tools available today. Your buyers and prospects will appreciate your willingness to go the extra mile. The medium of the blog allows you to exhibit a deeper level of knowledge about issues and trends impacting your buyer’s world. Write about topics that are relevant to them and ensure you make it about them and not you for extra impact.

What Is a Valuable Connection?

As you build your network, you’ll want to pay close attention to connecting with different categories of people. Don’t be lopsided and connect with all of your college buddies or half of the company you work for. Focus, instead, on potential buyers and prospects, industry thought leaders and influencers, and those that express a desire to help grow your brand. Quid pro quo is the name of the game here so you must be open to helping them as well. Growing together scares some people but cooperation builds very successful brands.

Offering people something of great value is a wonderful start. For example, if you see someone asking a question, offer your time and help. Common courtesy goes a long way in helping you bank credibility.

In short, a valuable connection is one that helps you enhance your brand while you return the favor. Sounds simple enough, but most people aren’t concerned with this and instead focus on one or the other.

Additionally, always connect with prospects or buyers that ‘Like’, share, ‘Tweet’ or ‘Retweet’ your content. There is a reason they are doing this. Connect with them, as you may discover an opportunity.

Leveraging Network Relationships

A frequently forgotten aspect of networking is relationship building. Having connections is a sure fire way to grow your reach and influence, but building meaningful relationships with connections is the way to grow your pipeline and revenue.

In this sense, when you identify a meaningful connection, strive to move the online relationship offline (an interesting shift in sales process as you now add a voice to the face not the other way round).

By doing this, you get to make the interaction more personal and tailor the specific questions you can ask and insight you can give. You can create a unique and shared experience, a principle for building relationships, and consequently build the advocacy of your brand both online and offline.

There is no doubt that relationships in sales are changing, but their value isn’t. There is even less doubt that as the world becomes smaller the opportunity to network becomes greater.

The sales mantra has always been “it’s not what you know but who you know” and the role of your sales network has always been the rich feeding ground from which sales are made.

As much as this statement has remained consistent, social media has had a huge impact not only on what’s in a network but in the changing landscape of how to use it.

[pullquote]“It’s no longer who you know but what you know about who you know.” [/pullquote]

Whether you build the largest network in the world to maximize reach and access to information, or whether you build a small targeted network optimized for high impact, you must understand that if the end goal is more customers and higher revenues, you need to have greater understanding of your customers and they must be taken through a journey which is smooth and built on advocacy.

A connection does not a customer make and without a strong personal brand, a targeted approach and a personal, developed relationship your chances of making sales are diminished and you run the risk of letting your network not work for you.

The Bottom Line

In summary, what we’re talking about is recreating your offline networking know how online in order to position yourself with today’s reality. This is that buyers are starting their buying journeys online. As solution providers, we have a clear choice ahead of us. We can let them conduct the bulk of their due diligence on their own or help guide them along their journey. Those that help, add value and demonstrate a willingness to partner will benefit in the long-term.

* A special thanks to Amar Sheth for collaborating on this post.

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