Jill Konrath

Article Summary:

Avoid cold calling by using networking to establish relationships with propsective new clients.

The Truth About Business Networking

If you're like most sellers, you detest making cold calls. Just the thought of picking up the phone and calling a stranger sends shivers up your spine. And the brutal fact that nobody ever answers the phone or returns your call, makes it even worse.

That's why so many people are out networking these days. They're looking for connections and ways to establish relationships with prospective buyers first. And referrals - oooh, how we dream of getting someone to put in a good word for us with our ideal client - especially if they work for a big company!

Several years ago, I hit the networking circuit after refocusing my business direction. It was time to expand my client base. Like everyone else, I believed the standard wisdom about the value of networking.

Since I'm not a shy, tongue-tied person, I figured it would be a snap. All I needed to do was:

  1. Focus on the other person; ask lots of questions and make them feel important.

  2. Share ideas and resources to help them achieve their objectives.

  3. And keep in touch so I wouldn't be quickly forgotten.
I did it all. Every single bit of it. I went to a variety of organizations and associations. I became involved in several that were really tied to my business. I got on committees and helped out during the meetings. I had a booth at a networking trade show. I even spoke to a number of the groups.

But I never saw the results I was hoping for. In fact, I barely saw any positive results for all the time I invested in networking.

As someone who THINKS a lot about sales-related topics and EXPERIMENTS with all sorts of approaches to see what they yield, I was stymied.

Finally it hit me! If you wanted to do business with large corporations, everything that I assumed to be true about networking was a fallacy.

Here are the 4 biggest myths I uncovered:

Myth 1: Local business organizations and professional associations are great places to meet prospective contacts from big companies.

Reality: People in big companies today rarely attend these functions. Due to all the changes, turmoil and downsizing in their own organization, they have all they can do to stay on top of things.

They're literally too swamped to take time out of their busy days to attend this kind of meeting. They don't want to go to these functions and be hit up by all these vendors who are looking for an "in" to their company. They don't need the education because their own firm provides for that.

Besides, networking for big company decision-makers means meeting with their counterparts in other divisions or attending industry specific events such as trade shows.

If you take a serious look at the groups you're participating in, most all the people who attend are from small to medium sized businesses. That's great, if that's who you sell to.

But if you're trying to work with General Mills, General Electric or General Dynamics - you'll seldom, if ever, see their decision makers at these events.

Myth 2: It takes time to see the results of networking, therefore it's imperative to keep at it.

Reality: Yes, it does take time to see the results. But, if the big company decision makers aren't there - and won't be coming, then you're wasting your time. And the longer you keep at it, the more time you're wasting.

Hope is not a powerful strategy. In fact, it's downright delusional. How many times do you have to beat your head against the wall before you know it's time to stop?

Myth 3: It's important to build relationships with people before trying to talk about your products or services.

Reality: People from big companies don't have time to build relationships first. Much as you may want to, they're too busy. They don't have time to chitchat about golf or family vacations. Get down to business quickly. Focus on your value proposition or ideas that can help them grow their business or save money.

A positive relationship develops over time; it doesn't happen first. Show your value, demonstrate your worth, make a difference. Then these decision makers will really want to have you as a friend.

Myth 4: People you meet at networking meetings are highly likely to refer you to prospective buyers in large corporations.

Reality: Many people you meet at networking meetings are really, really nice. In fact, if you meet them later for coffee or breakfast, you'll have a wonderful conversation. You'll learn even more about what they do and have a chance to share your story in more depth.

And you'll find out that they're hungry for business. Just like you, they're hoping to find that elusive person who will magically fling open the doors of a corporate giant for them. They're hoping for the connection to "just the right person" and a great referral besides.

Believe me, if one of them is ever lucky enough to meet your ideal decision maker, the likelihood that he or she will put in a good word for you is slim to none. They're too busy worrying about how to get their own business.

Besides since they're just getting to know the decision maker, their referral would hold little credence.

Once I realized the myths of networking, I seized control of my own destiny again. That means I specifically identified the companies I wanted as clients and began an account entry campaign to get an appointment. As soon as I did that, the tide started to turn and business started coming my way.

While it's possible to network your way into large corporations, it's not going to happen soon enough for most people. They'll go broke first.

And that's the real truth about networking and big companies!

Jill Konrath, author of the hot new book Selling to Big Companies, is a recognized expert on selling to large corporations. She helps her clients crack into corporate accounts, speed up their sales cycle, and create demand in the highly competitive business-to-business marketplace. A frequent speaker at national sales meetings and association events, she provides a big wake-up call to sellers, then shares the new skills and strategies required for success.

Jill publishes a leading on-line newsletter which is read by 20,000+ sellers from more than 85 countries. Most recently she's been featured in Selling Power, Entrepreneur, The Business Journal, Sales & Marketing Management, WSJ's Start-Up Journal, Sales & Marketing Excellence, Journal of Marketing, Business Advisor and countless online publications.

For info on speaking, training or consulting services, please call 651-429-1922 or email her directly, or visit www.sellingtobig companies.com.

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