By Chuck Sink
Think about your last five or ten new customers. Where did they come from and why did they come to you? I’m willing to bet they ordered from you or hired you because you established a relationship. If they came to you by referral, it was because you built a relationship with someone else first.
Selling is a tough profession these days. The world of sales has changed profoundly in the last 10 years. I’ve been through it and seen it from numerous angles and have some understanding of what works and what doesn’t in 2014.
I don’t make sales calls anymore and unlike pre-2010, I don’t get anxious during new business meetings. Rather, I stay in touch with prospects without any pretense of selling them something. They know it and I know it. Now I make sales all the time. My “closing ratio” is the best it’s been in my selling career. There is a natural process to it free of pressure on either side of the transaction.
I was having a discussion with a client about pre-internet and pre-voicemail proliferation. Prior to the mid-late 1990s, most companies had open door policies for salespeople because they were the carriers of new product information and industrial innovations. The advance of Internet search changed all that.
In the present day and age, without having a strong network and a good reputation, most salespeople haven’t much hope for success. People don’t give salespeople their time like they used to.
Up until about 2006-2008, before online social-business transparency started to influence people’s decisions, traditional cold calling and appointment setting still worked fairly well. Since then, the game has changed profoundly. The good news for traditionalists is that relationships still rule the business world. People will always prefer to do business with people they like.
I do a lot of self marketing with email, social media and earned media coverage. All of that builds my company and personal brand. My company is known for the reasons I want it to be known.
As a marketing consultant, there is nothing more gratifying than when I gain a new client through these marketing efforts. However, when I look honestly at the numbers, approximately 70% of my business comes from networking and the relationships I’ve nurtured over the last 4 years.
Without brand recognition and continuous marketing to strategically build that brand, networking alone probably wouldn’t be enough for my business or any business to succeed. I once heard a quip that has always stuck with me. When asked about what single thing really works in marketing, the successful entrepreneur answered: “No single thing works, that’s why we do everything!”
For a salesperson to succeed today, he or she needs 1) a good product/service, 2) consistent strategic branding and marketing efforts behind the product/service/brand, and 3) a consistently robust networking routine. The relationships built from the networking combined with the referrals generated from those relationships are where the majority of sales will come. One of my favorite sales gurus likes to say, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”