Recently, I delivered a two-hour networking skills workshop to a group of moderately seasoned sales professionals at a financial services company. One brave soul raised his hand and shared his biggest sales hurdle. He said, “I simply don’t know enough about the people I’m reaching out to or what’s going on in my city.” Heads around the room nodded in unison with his remarks. They were all feeling the overwhelm of business, of identifying leads and of establishing trusting relationships.
Then, one of the fellow’s colleagues chimed in with this interesting observation, “Yes,” she said, “but our manager, Joe, always knows everything going on around town. He is always up to date on what’s happening with this person or that person. None of us knows exactly how he does it!”
As a group, we went on to dissect what it was about Joe that gave him the inside track on people, current events and other interesting tidbits that he leveraged to build his network and generate business. Here’s what we landed on:
- Read your local business-related publication. My weekly read of choice is the Kansas City Business Journal – and there are 42 other markets around the United States that have their own Business Journal, too. Plus, in my town, there are also several monthly publications. The key with any of these periodicals is to review them to know what is happening around town, learn about what key leaders are doing in the city. And, one of my favorite tactics is to clip favorable articles and photos of people I know and/or people I would like to know, jot a quick congratulatory note to them and drop it in the mail. People love to get extra copies of the press they receive!
- Attend networking events. Whatever your role in the organization, you ought to make time to get out to networking events on a relatively regular basis. Not only will your attendance bolster your own personal professional relationship base, but it will also benefit your company as you serve as an ambassador for the work of the firm. And, remember, pick the ones that sound interesting to you and set a goal to connect with at one, two or three people at the event who you want to follow up with. Once you’ve established those meaningful connections, you may feel free to leave the event! Or… if you’re having a great time, stick around and connect with others. You simply never know who you will meet.
- Get involved. Though life is busy with work responsibilities, home and family obligations, expectations from friends and just plain old errands and chores associated with daily living, getting involved in the community can have far-reaching, positive implications for both your personal and professional lives. By volunteering for a local charity, serving on a not-for-profit board and/or assisting with fundraising efforts for a cause you believe in, you will establish yourself as one who cares about your community, who possesses talents that you are willing to share with others and who can get things done. Plus, you will make great connections and build friendships.
One way to ensure you are doing what you need to do to achieve success is to use this feeling of uncertainty or lack of local knowledge as a gauge to determine if you are engaging with (e.g. talking with, working with, volunteering with) enough of the right people in your community. And, if all else fails, find someone like Joe to talk with about ways you can get ingrained in what’s going on with the people with whom you want to connect.
How have you been able to generate sales leads and/or keep your finger on the pulse of your community? Please take a moment to share your ideas at CoffeeLunchCoffee.com.