Some suggest it is uncouth to sell to family and friends. Generally, salespeople prefer to provide their goods and services to strangers to ensure a strict separation between their personal and professional lives. However, pre-established relationships are a gold mine for salespeople, and leads are plentiful within your personal, professional, and social networks. Among your acquaintances, existing clients, family members, followers, and friends, there are a number of quality sales opportunities. But to capture the best ones, you must actively seek them out.
Here are five ways to uncover opportunities within your network to help you consistently grow and increase sales.
1. Inquire often, actively listen
Rather than discuss business, your connections may feel more inclined to talk about common interests, the weather, sports, or family.
As the conversation ebbs and flows, you can casually initiate shoptalk. With the right prompt, you may spark a lively dialogue about opportunities and obstacles at work—and that’s when things can get interesting.
Practice active listening and identify recurring themes, topics that agitate or excite, and pain points. In no time, you will discover areas where you can contribute, allowing you to seamlessly segue into a sales pitch. By using a structured framework to access information, you will quickly figure out if you can turn friendly conversations into win-win sales proposals.
2. Monitor shifts in human resources or roles
Intelligent professionals regularly make vertical and lateral career movements. The people within your network are certainly doing the same. Each career shift your friends make opens up amazing new sales opportunities for your firm.
For example, imagine a grade-school classmate was promoted to vice president within his firm last week. Yesterday, a former colleague left her job to join a competitor’s company. Today, a family member’s business will announce plans to hire 120 additional employees.
When an old acquaintance takes on a new job or is promoted, set aside some time to learn about his latest responsibilities. This may be the perfect time to discuss how your products or services may help him meet or exceed his goals.
Keep an eye out for:
- Job title changes
- New job openings
- Company expansions
- Overarching changes in the field
Keep an ear to the ground: Monitor job boards, scan social media, and subscribe to industry-specific publications to spot role shifts, open positions, and company leaps. These are your windows of opportunity. In some cases, the timing could not be better. New hires or newly promoted employees could use your help to accelerate growth.
On Facebook and Twitter, look out for friends’ announcements of their most recent career moves. On LinkedIn, enable daily or weekly emails for network updates. A new job posting, status update, or email newsletter may disclose just enough information about business needs or career changes within your network to initiate a qualified sales conversation.
3. Pay for marketing
Targeted ads can help keep prospects warm and stay top-of-mind. Advertising adds a degree of separation between you and your prospects, allowing you to introduce your products and services without personally pestering them.
This is especially easy on social media where you can use remarketing to direct ads toward the connections, followers, and friends who are already familiar with your business. Doing so is a low-pressure way to guide prospects through the sales funnel too.
Within your network, allocate advertising dollars toward:
- Employees at companies using competing products or services.
- Individuals who have expressed interest in your offerings, but need buy-in from their supervisor or a promotion in order to recruit your services.
- Acquaintances who could desperately use your tools, but require further rapport to close the sale.
When you spend money on marketing to assist and amplify sales, your investment will pay dividends long-term. That is because you will be able to convert leads into sales whenever it finally makes sense for their businesses.
4. Broadcast professional updates
Each time you share a personal status update or tweet, a handful—or even hundreds—of people you know comment on, like, share, or retweet it. If you email personal news to your contact list, you will likely receive a number of heartfelt responses.
In the digital age, we can keep all of our connections informed with everything going on in our personal and professional lives. Social media offers valuable, unprecedented ways to promote your products and services to friends and family. At the same time, contacts see what’s new with you and evaluate if the news may have any material impact on how they do business.
By simply updating your network on new clients, products, skills, successes, and technology, you remind old connections about your latest offerings and keep newer contacts in the loop. Most of the time, you will receive congratulatory responses. In some instances, you may receive dead silence. But if you are lucky, people who are genuinely interested in hearing more on how their companies or projects can benefit will send you a message.
5. Volunteer your expertise and skills
Even your closest friends may be hesitant to work with you if you share no professional history together. But when you spend time volunteering your expertise and skills to a cause, you quickly earn the type of trust that is developed among colleagues who have worked together for years.
Support people you know at companies that can utilize your guidance and implementation to boost profitability, productivity, and sales. After you demonstrate your value, you become the first person the firm turns to when budget frees up.
Among companies you are already connected with, here are five things to remember to position yourself as a preferred vendor:
- Develop authority and thought leadership.
Regularly share interesting advice, content, and news through email, instant messaging, and social media. Potential clients will soon think of you as the best resource for information within your niche.
- Invest in the outcome, no matter the cost.
Spare no expense to ensure your acquaintances and friends get the service and support they need to succeed, even if it means having to carve out a few hours over the weekend to accommodate their needs.
- Consider pro-bono work.
Think of it as a low-risk way to qualify a sales prospect and generate loyalty. Set a fixed timeline for each engagement and treat it like any other project with firm deliverables, accountability from all parties, and a detailed summary of work done and results achieved.
- Get clients invested in the work you do.
Often, companies take free products and services for granted, squandering the opportunities you generously provide. With their direct involvement, you are guaranteed to produce a better outcome.
Remember you are friends first, business associates second.
When in doubt, make small sacrifices to preserve your relationship. You can secure new sales commitments faster than you can mend a broken friendship.
Volunteering your resources and time does not have to be an act of altruism. Once you generate positive return-on-investment, getting the client to justify the cost of ongoing billings will be easier.
Selling to those within your network does not have to be an uncomfortable process. Instead, it can be a valuable, mutually beneficial transaction that will bring both parties even closer than before. If your offerings are worth their weight in gold, the people you already know should have first priority when it comes to business.