When it comes to sales, networking events, conferences, and speaking engagements are the typical ways of building your network. All of them can be pretty successful. However, there are often other areas of your life that may offer great opportunities for building your sales pipeline. After all, just two per cent of all cold calls result in an appointment, according to Leap Job. This means that building those unique relationships is crucial for your sales success.
Luckily, it is possible to grow your network while also maintaining business and personal relationships with your peers and friends. Below are some of the activities you’re probably already doing that you can use to gain new prospects.
You may be used to getting emails from your college or university alumni association letting you know about fundraising or tailgating events. But it may have never occurred to you to utilize these events as relationship-building opportunities for sales. The same goes for your fraternity or sorority networks.
Attending fundraising or community events through your fraternity, sorority, or alumni associations make sense as a salesperson: You already have something in common with most of the people there, which makes it easy to start a conversation. Additionally, most events are done locally with a city chapter, so if your products or services are located in the same area, you are likely to meet people directly in your target market.
In addition to attending events, be sure to fill out your updated profile every year for any member directories or websites. Some of your fellow members may look to these for services, and you could end up with a lead.
Although this is related to the typical networking events or conferences, hosting smaller events makes for a much more intimate audience. Plus, hosting a speaker and catering a lunch or an intimate dinner allows you to interact with your prospects or colleagues for a few hours while acting as host.
Offering a nice lunch break or evening out is often selling your services by itself; don’t worry about coming up with a fancy pitch or materials to give your guests a hard sell. Instead, let guests interact with one another. You can simply take the time to interact with everyone and thank them for coming. A great, no-pressure evening will leave your guests with a pleasant memory that they’ll think of next time they need your services.
Sure, most salespeople use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to get new leads or stay in touch with prospects. But what about utilizing new platforms to build your thought leadership in your industry?
A few of the latest platforms utilize video and audio to host engaging discussions on all kinds of topics. They include:
If you’re looking to build your industry thought leadership, check out these platforms and view others’ streams before deciding which one would work best for you. Live streaming social media apps are only going to continue to grow, so it’s worth learning more now so you can continue to build your sales relationships online.
If your children attend an active public or private school, there are likely several events throughout the year that can give you an opportunity to get to know fellow parents. Many schools hold fundraising events, and these events are another easy place to start conversations.
In addition to raising funds and giving assistance to your children’s school, you can make new friends and colleagues that could be valuable future members of your sales pipeline. As with any of these alternative networking ideas, focus on building the relationship first. A trustworthy connection usually fosters organic leads into sales opportunities or referrals.
If you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart, like conservation, building confidence in girls, or promoting literacy, there are likely several non-profit organizations in your area looking for help. VolunteerMatch.org and Idealist.org are two great websites that let you search by location, commitment, and industry to find organizations that are looking for help.
Think of it as double duty: Volunteering regularly or at specific events throughout the year is a way to give back to your community while also meeting new prospects and growing your network. Working for a cause you both care about makes for an easy way to make friends and get to know others in your local area.
If finding the perfect non-profit organization to volunteer with seems overwhelming, try looking for opportunities at local civic centers. Libraries, museums, food kitchens, and community centers all usually have openings for volunteers.
If you know your public speaking skills could be better (which, honestly, is true for most of us), consider joining Toastmasters International. Most chapters meet every other week or twice a month. You can join at any time, and you go through a process of writing and presenting speeches in front of other members. Toastmasters is known for being a supportive, non-intimidating environment, which makes it a great way to grow your public speaking skills while also getting to know your fellow chapter members.
Additionally, because most members are business professionals looking to further their experience, you may find others who could be interested in your services or products. The environment is a natural place to learn more about your fellow members.
You’ve likely connected with several “super connectors” in your life without even knowing it. Professionals who rely on knowing people are often bountiful resources for getting referrals in your own industry. A few people you likely already know are your realtor, accountant, interior designer, car salesman, or any other professional that interacts with many people as part of their trade.
If you have a longstanding, trustworthy relationship with any of these people, be sure they are aware you are always looking for referrals. Specify your key offerings so they can keep you in mind.
Your fellow salespeople can help you as well. Build relationships with other sales professionals in different industries, and you can all keep each other in mind whenever someone is looking for a referral.
Building a robust network and sales pipeline is all about being active in your community and industry. By hosting small dinners, volunteering at your child’s school or in a local non-profit, and growing your thought leadership online, you can foster and build relationships that will likely lead to referrals and leads for years to come.