By Chuck Sink
In the early years of my selling career, I was lucky to have a decent smile, a sharp suit and manners instilled by my parents. Just showing up at the right time enabled me to take orders from prospects and customers. It was luck (to me, Providence) because all I really cared about was making the sale so I could earn money. I was driven to be a good salesman to feed not only my family but as much my ego. If I hit it off with a customer, that was nice but it really wasn’t the relationship I was seeking. Notice how many I’s are in this paragraph?
Many years of cold calling, follow up calling, appointment setting, winning and losing taught me some lessons about why, for many years, I was putting the cart before the horse. Customers didn’t care about my success, they cared about their profits and their own careers. Then I started reading about sales and marketing from some masters of the profession. With skepticism I attended more networking events but tried collecting business cards and insisted others take mine and call me the instant they needed my products, promising “competitive prices and great service.” (Ho hum!) Persistence was my only real selling asset for a long time.
Fast forward a decade and a half to my entrepreneurship. I wouldn’t have a business of my own had I not learned to care genuinely for people in my network. Networking events now are fun and rewarding because my focus is on how interesting other businesses are; how fascinating the professional lives of others can be, not to mention their personal and family lives.
Common ground is fertile ground.
Most people in business love to talk – about their business. The person who actively listens to them is a valuable and attractive person. The person who really listens to them, understands their value and takes action to connect them with someone else who can benefit from their value is a treasured contact. The resulting relationship crosses from connection to friend. People want to help their friends. Business networking is a great way to build your personal brand and it works for you when you show up with the goal of listening to help. People like that. Therefore they will like you. People prefer to do business with people they like.