Networking is a powerful tool in the belt of any sales professional. Over time, sales professionals build up an exceptional sales network, providing contacts who either supply salespersons with goods and services or the customers who are likely to need such. Keeping your network up to date requires constant attention to your networking plan. The benefits of doing so, however, can give you an edge over others in your field.
Many sales professionals turn to their vendors when establishing a network, and constant contact with vendors can provide you with many sales leads and opportunities. Maintaining vendor contacts may be as simple as exchanging business cards whenever you purchase a new set of goods or contract for new services. Even when you haven't spoken to vendors or used their services in a while, maintaining contact with a simple email asking about new products or opportunities to work with them can do a lot to help keep your skills fresh in their minds.
Customers in your network are the lifeblood of your career. They are one major reason that networking is important even when you have a job and a regular client base. Their needs drive the types of products and services you are likely to seek from your vendors. Customers may opt to receive weekly or monthly communications from you if you offer them a newsletter subscription. Keeping your customer contacts alive with a simple call to see how they are faring after a period of inactivity shows your concern for their wellbeing without being pushy or off-putting.
A third element of your network that requires attention relies on neither vendors nor customers. Your community involvement may, however, lead you to both. Volunteer regularly with local groups that help make your community a better place. Express your opinions in the local paper in a thoughtful and well-reasoned manner that balances your beliefs with fact. This will keep you in the forefront of the minds of potential customers and can create sales leads out of seemingly nowhere. You don't have to get out and build a new house or park to maintain your networking efforts; just attending regular community business meetings and shaking hands with local community leaders is often enough.
Keeping your network alive and current is a full-time process. You need to reach out and remind customers or vendors that you are available with your networking efforts and get valuable information from your contacts. The more you understand about your business partners, the vendors and customers who keep you employed, and your community, the better you can serve them. Networking gives you the tools you need to remain involved and active, but it falls on you to keep your network alive with regular activities and updates.
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