When I was younger and got in to sales, I read all kinds of books that told me I had to network to be successful. I joined networking groups, attended industry meetings, and tried to meet whoever I could. I guess I was networking, but I wasn’t getting great results by just meeting people.
Looking back, the piece I was really missing was value. I was doing fine shaking hands and exchanging cards. Since I hadn’t really added any value when making introductions, people had no reason to call me. I wish someone had told me sooner.
As my career went along, I eventually got to a situation where I had more to do as a salesperson than time would allow. So many targets, so many products to sell, so much potential! At this point, I learned that starting the conversation with what’s valuable to the customer was so much more successful than going through a pitch on a product. So many times, after describing every detail of a product, a customer would tell me it’s not going to work, they’re not willing to change products, etc.
I had wasted their time and mine, so how likely was a second appontment to talk about a different product?
The most important thing I learned through this progression was that in order to get something from someone, you have to give something first. Give a recommendation, advice, a lead, or at least a joke. If at the end of a meeting, your customer can’t identify something you’ve given them, I have some bad news: you’re likely not getting another invite.
For example, I recently had a dealer arranged meeting with an end user where I ended up recommending traditional intrusion products over video surveillance. It worked out awesome. Both the end customer and dealer felt bad that they weren’t purchasing anything from me. Since then, I’ve gotten several referrals from the end user and the dealer has brought me in to several other opportunities. I could have tried to force a sale, got a poor outcome, and and two disappointed customers. Instead, I gave away some knowledge that I have and will continue to get paid for that for a long time.