Networking Not Working? Here's Why


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“Bruce, I use Facebook and I have hundreds of connections on LinkedIn, but I don’t get any business out of them.”

I hear variations on this every week from people who invest a lot of time in social media and get little or no return. Usually it's because they've forgotten what networking means. They collect followers and connections, and share or broadcast content. But that’s it. They forget their network is composed of individuals and they should be networking with those individuals on a one-to-one basis.

And here’s the really hard part for salespeople: Stop selling; just meet people. Take an interest in them, take an interest in their professional lives, and help them with their problems where you can.  

I ran a test that illustrates this back in the summer. I sent a carefully worded LinkedIn InMail (a message that you can send to anyone on LinkedIn) to 40 managers and sales executives I don’t know personally. The message was a sales pitch for one of my services. The result? Zero responses out of 40 messages. Chances of making a sale to any of these people? Zero.

Then I sent 40 more InMails out to another set of managers and sales executives. Same basic demographics as the first set. Except that this time, no sales pitch. Instead, I offered a white paper on an aspect of using LinkedIn. The result? Fourteen responses or 35%.

The real power in your network isn’t in the people you know or are connected with, but the people that they know. For each person you have in your network, that person can connect you with another several hundred people they know. That’s powerful. When I was a kid, my first summer job came through a friend of my father’s. It wasn’t from the person in my network (my father), it was from someone in his network.

Will I sell something to one of more of the 14 new people who responded to my InMail? Maybe. But I am more interested in establishing credibility through networking with them so that I might be introduced and make a sale to one of the thousands of people in their networks.

Some things to take away from this week’s column: Get outside your comfort zone; just meet people; take an interest in them; help them where you can; and keep up with them as individuals. Do this every day and make it a habit. Prominent on my daily schedule is to introduce myself to three new people every day and to offer to help them. I also make a point of contacting 10 of my LinkedIn connections every day and offering something that might help them.

There is a reason this stuff is called “social."

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