Selling vs. Networking

I responded to a budding web designer who is running into obstacles in his business because he believes he is a poor salesman. I will share what I told him in hopes it will help others…

I used to think I was a weak salesman. I believed that old wives tale that if I offered a better mousetrap, the sales would overwhelm me. In all of my ventures, it never happened that way. Even though I offered what equated to an excellent mousetrap, the sales never came unless I went out and got them. And that was a problem for me. I hate to cold call. I hate to try to push my products or services on someone, even when I know they need it. I hate to box someone in based upon their “pain” just so I can sell them the solution to their pain. Some folks are very good at that. Some even love it. They talk about going on a hunt. Moving in for the kill. I used to try to develop that “killer instinct” but it just wasn’t my style. Sound familiar?

Then I discovered the difference between networking and sales and at that point I started to really enjoy owning my business. I no longer needed to create pain to get sales. I no longer had to move in for the kill. Instead of selling, I learned how to network. And I learned that as much as I dreaded cold calling, I love to network. I can talk to people about what they need and try to match them up with others in my circle of quality business people who can help them. When someone needs their yard work done, I know just the right person for that. When they need financial planning, I know people well thought of that I can introduce them to. Need a bookkeeper? I have a reliable one I can refer. Need to take credit cards? I know one of the best!

And what happens when I give a friend a hot referral? That person wants to know how they can repay me. All I ask is that they keep me in mind when someone needs a web site. That’s easy. It may even make sense for  both of us to meet for coffee or lunch to discuss each others business so hopefully we can learn how to give more helpful referrals.

Over 10 years ago I found out there was a structured organization that builds upon that entire concept of the more you give, the more you gain. I joined one of my local chapters of Business Networking International (BNI). Ever since then I’ve kept a steady stream of  business referrals coming in.  It is word of mouth in a very structured specific manner.

It is not the purpose of this article to specifically promote BNI as I suspect there may be other organizations out there with similar methodology. But if you have found, like I did, that you can provide good web sites but are not the hot-shot rainmaker that can keep yourself busy, it is time to start learning how important it is to develop a strong network. And if you are like me, you will find that matching other business leaders with potential clients can be a lot of fun too.

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