With a high-school education and poor parents, I realized early on in my career that my personality was my biggest asset. There are many moments in people's lives that they identify as a "turning point" ...something that had a lasting effect on the direction of their life from that point forward. One of those "turning points" in my life was the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.
I realized that human relationships are a science that can be studied and quantified and improved. In later years, when I took the Carnegie Sales courses, once again that same light bulb went off. I realized that "Sales" is a precise and measurable science.
In "The Seven Habits of highly Effective People", Stephen Covey refers to a person's "circle of influence" as one of the most productive forces in their lives.
As a successful salesman, and later as a highly productive sales manager, it has always been my ability to network with other people and to generate new business through referral and introduction that gave me my biggest victories.
In business, sales and marketing, it is important that we get to the decision-makers. I am looking for that direct link to the top person, the one person who can overrule everyone else about whether or not they will buy what I am selling. What I am looking for are those people who can help me with a direct introduction to a decision-maker as opposed to a cold call to someone at a lower level in that organization. I believe in doing business from the top down.
In most business environments, the only way to get new business is to take it away from someone who already has the account. You have to defeat a working relationship between your client and someone who already has that business. But, when you meet with a decision-maker as an invited guest...a friend of a friend...the atmosphere is warm and your presentation is welcome. How many sales people have you known that spent all of their time chasing " mind deals"...sales that were never going to happen?
One of the first things you will need to learn is an original principle that I call "Gathering People". When first setting up your network, you need to define your circle of influence. Who do you know? It really doesn't matter who they are or what they do. I try to meet and get to know as many people as humanly possible in virtually every walk of life.
Once you have met anyone in your industry that might be of help to you and your business, never lose them. I am talking about everyone here...receptionists...secretaries...sales people... assistants... janitors...anyone who even remotely might talk to a decision-maker. I database a lot of people that you might consider insignificant BUT my experience has taught me to go after the business by building all of the allies inside that company at any level that I can. You never know when the boss is going to casually mention your company in front of a secretary or an employee who is going to say something really positive about your business and swing the deal your way.
One of the greatest speakers and motivators of our time, Zig Ziglar, taught me a basic philosophy that has helped me to increase the quality of my life in almost every way, and that is... "You will always get what you want by helping other people to get what they want."
The difference in setting up a productive network and simply "using people" to get what you want lies in the fact that you set up the relationship by doing something for them...without a specific reward in mind. Whenever possible, without a specific goal or reward in mind, I make it a point to help other people. It all seems to come back to you.
I have landed hundreds of profitable business opportunities as a result of a conversation with someone that I met on an airplane. Through the years, I've done a lot of business through contacts that were referred to me through contacts that were referred to me through contacts in my immediate network and circle of influence.
Building a network is easier than keeping it. As an example...how many of those people who were your closest friends in high school are you still in touch with today? How many of them know what you are doing today? And, do you know what their doing today? Have you been guilty of wasting, and eventually losing, the people you gathered through out your life?
You will never have an effective network unless you have superior contact management skills. I remember their names, their spouse's names, their children's' names and I can tell you what they do and what their dreams are. I database everybody.
In my business network, I database my contacts and projects. Whether you are using ACT or GoldMine or any other application, you have to be able to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time. Whenever possible, I always try to get as much re-contact information as I can without being offensive. I can't tell you how many people were so grateful that I kept in touch with them after they left a company that they took my business to their new employer when they finally landed.
The most important advice I could give someone about networking for success is to educate the people in your circle of influence about exactly what it is that you do and what type of business you are looking for. I send my friends and associates videos and brochures and handouts about my company and me as if they were the clients. Let them know you would appreciate any help and referrals they could give you.
Once you have built these relationships, never let them go. When I am in my office, I will make as many as a hundred telephone contacts a day. Most of the conversations sound something like this...
"Hey Jennifer, James Ziegler, Listen I just called up to see how your business is doing. I really don't have an agenda for this call, just wanted to let you know I hadn't forgotten about you. By the way, have you been getting my newsletter? Good! I hope my people are following up with you? Great! By the way have you checked out my new website? Fantastic, thank you, we did a lot of work on it...Thanks. Hey listen, I've only got a minute but I wanted to say hello...Is there anything I can do for you? Okay...Glad you got that deal...I'll call back soon."
Not only do I stay in touch with my clients but I am also calling my circle of influence, my network. These "Telephone touches" are not business calls. There is no agenda. Just calling to see how things are going. Rarely do these calls last more than a couple of minutes each, but it keeps us in each other's minds. And, my calls always end the same way... "Hey listen, before I go...is there anything I can do to help you today?"
James Ziegler is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant and is a nationally recognized authority on sales and marketing. You can contact Jim at: Ph 800-726-0510 Fx 770-921-6323 [email protected] or
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