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Why You Should Stop Selling to Your Business Network

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Why You Should Stop Selling to Your Business Network

Imagine a business network that could be picked from a shelf, stuffed into a trolley and run through a checkout. Ta-dah! Contacts on tap.

Of course, you can actually access such a product. However, that thing in your trolley is called a mailing list, not a network. As I’m sure you know a mailing list consists of names and contact details of people who may be potential customers, but you don’t know that as yet, as you simply don’t know them. A network, on the other hand, consists of people you do know, and even though they may also have no interest in your goods and services, they will have an interest in you, if you treat them with respect.

It all seems obvious, however, time and time again, I see business owners disrespect the value of their network by treating them like a mailing list.

  • How many times have you met someone at a conference who seemed kind of cool, made a connection via social media and then, a few weeks or months later received a private message asking you to promote (or even buy) xyz service? This is not networking; this is selling.
  • How many times have you swapped a business card with someone you shared an interest with, only to have them pitch their service, in your face, right then and there? This is not networking; it’s annoying.
  • How many times have you connected with an old friend on social media only to be sent a private message with an invitation to join their new, life-changing and amazing MLM offer? This is not networking and it’s not ‘helping’; it’s just rude.

The thing is, there are a lot of people out there selling stuff. Yes, a gentle nudge doesn’t hurt. However, it’s very, very difficult to truly gauge how your message will be received at any given point. You could choose to run the numbers game, sending the same crass messages out to everyone you stumble across. Or, you could just choose to play the long game building a solid and loyal network of supporters as you go. I know which one I’d rather.

Let’s check out a few sample messages I’ve received from my ‘network’ in the past months and gauge my level of interest:

  • “Hey Kerry, I’ve got this awesome new coaching program that I’m sure you’ll love, here’s a link.”

What’s missing? Relevance, desire and need – Delete.

  • “Hey Kerry, long time no see. Hey, can you help me hun and send this link to your friends?”

What’s missing?Where did my friend go? Regular contact, catch ups, non-salesy updates. Do I really need to be ‘friends’ with this person? – Delete.

  • “Hey Kerry, I’ve written a book on leadership that you might find of interest. Can I send you a free copy?”

What worked? Not pushy, puts client needs first and puts some time into research; I felt like this person cares about me – Recommend.

  • “Hey, I saw you’re in the market for a virtual assistant, I can help you with that.”

What’s missing? The fact that I put this call out five years ago, I now feel icky and stalked. – Delete and consider reporting. 

  • “Hey Kerry, great to connect with you here, it’s been a while, how’s life treating you? Looks like we have some common interests, tell me more about your greatest challenges in leadership right now.”

What worked? A chance to start a conversation in a format that doesn’t require a chunk of my very limited time – Lean in and see where this conversation goes.

Above all, it pays to remember that your business network is there to provide support and advice, to build linkages and even friendships. Business networks are about giving.

So, the next time you sit down at your keyboard to generate sales via your business network remember you are building a relationship with friends not hustling your ‘prospects’.

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