At the end of the day, we’re all in business to make money. “So, how can I network to make more money?” I hear you ask. The truth is that unleashing a sales pitch on those in your network will most probably result in them avoiding you like the plague, and justifiably so.
Most people are put off being pitched to out of the blue. No-one wants to be pressured into buying something they don’t need or want, so how can you expect them to stay part of your network if you launch into your hardline sales routine out of the blue. People will feel that their relationship with you is being taken advantage of.
Network to Make Money vs Network to Provide Better Outcomes
However, you find yourself in a quandary.
You certainly would want your network connections to benefit from what you have to offer, right? It will (hopefully) improve their lives, and it would be better for both you and them if they bought from you rather than some random schmuck they didn’t know; they will get a personal, trust-inducing buying and after-sales experience from you, and you will make more money. It’s a win-win situation.
Giving a Better Experience
The challenge is to approach your selling to your network connections from the perspective of you wanting to provide something to them beyond what they are buying. As with any networking strategy, you have to focus on giving rather than receiving, and it’s no different when you want to network to make money. You must look beyond what you hope to receive.
So, the big question is, how do you sell to your network without “selling them”?
In this article, I’ll be looking at techniques you can use to make more money through your network, by not only encouraging those in your network to buy from you, but also to act as brand ambassadors for you to their own networks.
The Foundation is a Strong Network
First things first: you need a network, and not just any network. You need a network of people who, as my good friend and networking guru Bill Doerr says, you “know, like and trust and who know, like and trust you” right back.
The great thing about promoting your wares to an established network is that it is a “captive market” in the sense that your audience already “knows, likes, and trusts” you. They will be far more receptive to your offer if you have laid the correct groundwork (the strong network relationships you have with each one) and if you don’t try to come across too “salesy”.
One caveat here is not to promote your products or services to people you have just met. Sure, let them know what you do and what you sell, but don’t go into a “sales mode” until you have a few conversations, on or offline, under your belt. The litmus test I use that indicates that they are most likely primed to be introduced to your offering is when they initiate contact with you, such as reaching out to say “Hi” or asking questions about what you do or offer. When they take the initiative in this way, they indicate that they view your mutual relationship as something worth building.
Patience is a Virtue
Second, you need patience. Remember that as with networking in general, you are playing the long game.
Sales from your network will come if you are patient and use a low-key information-sharing campaign with your network rather than pitching to them. Take it slow and easy. The sooner you start building connections and “drip-feeding” them your informational outreaches (see below), the sooner the sales will come.
Sometimes you get lucky and you’ll connect with someone whose need can be filled immediately by your offering, but other times it may take months or even years to get anything out of your network connections. Sometimes you won’t get any sales from or through certain network members. Don’t be discouraged. After all, the value of your network connections isn’t just in how much you can sell to them.
The Power of Word-of-Mouth and Why It’s the Key
The article (with infographic) titled “The Importance of Word Of Mouth Marketing – Statistics and Trends” concludes that 90% of people are likely to trust the recommendation of a friend, and word-of-mouth promotion is five times more likely to result in sales than that of media.
That means that if you can get your network talking about what you sell in a positive way, you are likely to get more sales. So, how do we get people talking about what we sell? We make it “remarkable”.
Need Words-of-Mouth Promotion? Make Yourself or What You Are Selling Remarkable
A remarkable person, product or service is one that is worth talking about. It goes without saying that something remarkable is also more memorable.
If it’s a product or service, this doesn’t mean that it needs to be expensive, rare, or exceptionally trendy. The “remarkable-ness” of your offering doesn’t even need to have anything to do with the product or service you sell. You can focus on making the presentation of the offering and the experience related to not only buying but even just finding out more about what you sell, interesting, engaging, and imaginative.
“But my offering can’t be made interesting. It’s just a (whatever),” I hear some people say. Really. Try it. Search for interesting marketing and packaging ideas and you’ll be surprised. Even if you aren’t very imaginative, search out some good ideas and copy them. It may take a little time to find the right ideas but they’re often inexpensive and, most importantly, effective.
If you can pull this off, your network connections will automatically think of you and the solution you sell in any conversation they have in which problems that you could solve come up.
Other Ways to Make Your Offer Attractive
Whether or not you have made your products and/or services “remarkable” (see above) you want your network to find your offer intriguing and attractive, if not for themselves personally, then for those in their networks. Let’s face it if your connection can introduce your product and/or service to someone in their network, especially if they can “secure” a special deal through someone they know, they will look like a star. So, it’s in their interest to do so.
One way to make your offer attractive, especially if you can’t think of how to make it remarkable in any other way, is to offer your network connections (as well as those they refer you to) a special just-for-my-network “deal”. This can take the form of one or more of the following:
- A buy-one-get-one-free deal, if what you are selling is a low-cost commodity.
- A discount on a product or service.
- A free add-on or upgrade.
If you are going to go this route, make sure that your special deal is better than anything else out there on the market because most people will do some comparative price-checking if in the market to buy something, especially if it is at a higher price point.
However, you are networking to make more money, so offering a discount should be considered only if you can’t come up with any other way to make it stand out. The discount should also leave you with enough profit to make it worthwhile.
You can also try to think of cross or joint promotions that you can set up with your network connections. This must be carefully considered as your offer and theirs need to be complementary in some way. A “Buy a hamburger (from you) and get 50% off an ice cream (from your connection’s ice cream parlor)” makes sense, but “Get a carwash and receive 20% off your first consultation with a divorce lawyer” doesn’t.
Another thing to make sure is that you know and trust them enough that you are fairly certain they will honor the promotion. Your business’ reputation is on the line here, and if they refuse to fulfill their end of the promotion, you will look bad by association.
Having such an arrangement will see your offer promoted alongside theirs in their promotional efforts, which again, is a win-win.
If you have built a strong network, your connections should only be too happy to promote you to their own networks. However, they need to know exactly what is that you’re selling. It does you no good if they know you are in a particular industry but have no idea precisely what it is you sell.
You need to promote what you offer to them. You need to embark on an “informational outreach” campaign.
Such an outreach is a subtle, pressure-free way of getting your message out there.
Start by asking each of your connections for a brief description of what they are selling (a “promotional brief”) so that you can promote them to anyone you come across who may have need of their products or services. Collect and file them and be sure to remind them to update you if there are changes.
Once that’s done, ask them if they wouldn’t mind you sharing a brief description of what you sell with them just to make it clear exactly what you offer in the event that they should interact with someone who needs something like that.
Ever-so-often, be sure to change your sales brief up a little and share it with them while inviting them to update the briefs they composed and sent to you. This will give you an excuse to remind them what you do and sell.
Next, ask your connections if they wouldn’t mind receiving a short article from you once every few months containing information, tips, and tricks related to your area of expertise that might come in handy for them. Make sure to stress that it’s not a newsletter but a focused, helpful document designed solely for selected members of your network. This will appeal to their sense of self-esteem.
Obviously, if your expertise is in a specialized niche, this article will only work if directed to people who would actually be able to use the content in question. In such a case, you would need to be selective as to whom you include in this campaign, unless you can make it general enough to pique the interest of your network connections or if they know of people in their network who are interested in your niche.
If you can, include special offers in this article as well, but make sure this is not the focus of the document.
Send this article out every two or three months or so to keep your outreach low-intensity.
This periodical exchange of promotional material will remind them what you do and will tend to keep you front and center in their minds when it comes to the solutions you offer.
Understand That Your Network Will (Most Probably) Not Be Buying Directly From You
If you sell a commonly needed commodity or service, you are very likely to make sales to your network connections. However, in many cases, your network connections won’t be the ones doing the buying. They will be referring you to the people they know, who will. Your connections are the gatekeepers to your real market – those that they interact with.
If you treat your network connections well and go out of your way to build solid relationships with them, you will soon have a cohort of eager advocates.
However, it cannot be overstated: don’t sell. Subtly promote.
If you focus on building and reinforcing your relationships and don’t let impatience get the better of you, you can be sure that your network will start making more money for you.
Even if your network connections won’t be the ones buying from you, your efforts will generate sales over the long term. If you’ve nurtured the relationships in your network carefully and continuously, you’ll find that your network connections won’t mind introducing you to people who will either buy directly from you or help get the word out about what you are selling.