There’s Networking and then there’s Networking . . .

Unstructured engagement outside of the office makes sense within a coordinated program of marketing and sales activity. However, it is important to operate under the assumption that not all networking opportunities are created equal. Sales management must exercise some discretion as to which networking opportunities make sense, vs opportunities that simply provide sales staff with an excuse to waste time.

We have worked with a client who we found to be very adept at quickly equipping sales staff with the techniques required to transform an ostensible public networking event into an opportunity to gather, first hand, lots of information potentially useful for completed, ongoing and planned sales opportunities. Much of the client’s recommendation was that sales personnel be sure to interject lots of open questions during one to one discussions with contacts to “prime the pump” on information sharing. Further, our client recommended that sales people research legitimate contact names in advance of these meetings so as to have credible information at the ready that can be utilized to obtain additional names from contacts.

With regards to obtaining additional names from contacts, we should note that our client’s objective was to utilize networking opportunities as opportunities to verify apparent roles with prospect businesses. Some of the recommended dialogue included the specific use of some “yes” or “no” questions; for example, along the lines of “So you work with [contact name] in IT?,” or, “Does [contact name] still run quality assurance?” etc. Admittedly, some contacts won’t rise to this bait, but some will.

Once sales staff are armed with information gathering techniques it is not difficult for sales management to determine the specific networking opportunities worth attending. Obviously, if sales staff return from monthly meetings, speed networking events, trade shows and conferences without planned information, then either the chosen networking opportunities are incorrect, or sales staff is not able to effectively implement techniques.

We do not see where it makes sense to simply permit sales staff to leave an office for outside prospect interaction without returning with information. Further, managing unstructured outside contact engagement can enrich the rest of the marketing communications effort with an excellent supplementary source of leads. Sales management should target a flexible management style that will permit unstructured contact engagement, but firmly within the bounds of ongoing intelligence gathering efforts.

If your sales organization is begging for an effective, assertive management effort, then please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com. We will be happy to show you what we’ve got.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

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