For gaining customers the traditional way of cold acquisition is overtaken more and more by the very popular concept of social networking. Networking is on everyones lips. We experience it at the big online social communities like Xing or LinkedIn, and even at private parties. It’s an interesting topic to talk about.
Social contacts are very important, especially in sales. Anyone who has anything to do with sales will agree with that.
The concept of networking seems easy: the more people you know, the more contacts with customer or potential customers you can generate and the more you sell in the long run, no matter if you sell a service or a product.
But this is a very simplistic way of looking at networking.
Not just the number of contacts is important – of course number counts –but the structure of the network itself makes the difference. Mark Granovetter or Ronald Burt ( two of the specialists in this field) have identified the main differences between successful and unsuccessful networks.
Here are the main characteristics of a successful network for identifying new customers:
- many direct contacts
- direct contacts don’t know each other (loose network)
- direct contacts have many other contacts (they have a bridge function to other networks)
- direct contacts come from different fields or markets
With this network you can gain more information from different fields and different people. So you quickly get new and exclusive information in an informal way. This is the best position to be in for gaining information about potential customers.
Once you have contact with a potential customer it’s important to get to know two or three additional people who will support you during the acquisition process. With that you will not just build a relationship with one person but with the company.
Besides the structure, the overall precondition for gaining information at all, is that people in your network do have to like you and that they want to do business with you. A point most of the theories are missing.
One should always have in mind that it’s hard to create a good reputation but easy to lose it.