The Sales Experience

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The Importance of Networking

February 12, 2015

Revenade Sales Leaders discuss the importance of networking, especially during down times in the market.


Hello and welcome to The Sales Experience, a podcast where we will share insights, lessons learned and best practices from sales leaders.  Each session we will do our best to provide experienced based information that you can immediately apply to help your company grow its top line.

My name is Sarah Lorhrmann and I’ll be your host and moderator on your journey through the world of sales.  To kick things off today, I’ll be talking to two of Revenade sales leaders about the ever increasing importance in building your network but first let’s start with a brief look on this day in business history where we highlight a key event that took place on this day.


On this day in history in 1996.  IBM’s Deep Blue computer became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion under the regular time controls.   The publicity that surrounded this chess match was huge, although the world champion narrowly edged out the computer four matches to two, IBM garnered a ton of media attention and further established itself as a computer technology powerhouse.


Now I would like to take a minute to introduce Scott Williamson and Tim Phillips from Revenade.  Scott Williamson is the founder of Revenade and serves as the firms managing partner.  For over 25 years he has helped companies throughout the world developed and executes strategies that will accelerate profitable revenue growth.  His partner, Revenade, is none other than Tim Phillips who serves as the managing director. Tim brings over 30 years of professional leadership in executive expertise as well as a immeasurable knowledge and expertise in the sales arena.  Thank you both so much for joining us today.


Scott:                Thank you very much Sarah


Tim:                   Thank you Sarah, it’s good to be here.


Sarah:                Scott and Tim, the current market environment in Houston has really taken a turn recently, due to the declining oil prices.  Businesses are changing at rapid pace and individuals are quickly learning that they have to rely on relationships now more than ever to help their businesses to continue to thrive.  Can you guys talk to us a little bit more about the significant impact you guys have seen in building your customer network?


Tim:                   Yes, that’s a great question Sarah and you’re exactly right, we have seen a tremendous change in the Houston market, not only the Houston market but the overall energy market globally, due to the recent decline in oil prices.  But in that everything in life is a cycle and we’ve seen the boom bust cycle in this industry in particular probably every seven years.  And I think the main thing in looking at this is not in terms of how I do my network to take advantage of it but really building a network with the minds eye to seeing the value in people and how I can deliver value in helping other people try to achieve what they want to achieve.  So networks, often times people think well, I need to know all the different people in my industry and they’re doing it from a really mercenary position.  What can I get out of it, Instead of how can I help somebody else? 

                           Because usually what you find is, if you can help somebody else that will come back five or tenfold and now in a time when we are seeing reductions in force and constrictions and contractions in the industry, people need help.  So always be on the lookout to help because at the end of the day, businesses don’t do business with businesses.  People do business with people and if you have a personal relationship with a person there is a much higher likelihood that you’re gonna be able to do business with that person. 


Scott:                 Yeah, I thing Tim brings up a really good point here. A clear network of people who will just go out there and try to get as many business cards, as many links and connection, as many email addresses that kind of thing.   And when I get hit upon those people I may decide to go ahead and accept their link and request or go and have coffee with them.  But I’m more than likely, especially in down times, to respond to somebody who truly took interest in me and found a way to try and give something good to me in that interaction as opposed to somebody who’s just trying to get to know me so that they can get through to me and somebody else. The other thing I think is really significant   in this kind of a market is that there is never a bad time to start rebuilding your network so you don’t have to always be… oh my gosh the market is bad and I don’t know what to do.  Go out there and start with your friends and then branch off from there.


Sarah:                Thanks Scott and Tim it really seems like the growth that you guys have seen in Revenade through networking alone really have been almost immeasurable.  Can you guys talk a little bit about what you think the most important networking tactics are? 


Scott:                 Yeah, I think Tim and I hit a little bit on this in the previous question but just to explain all of that amid Tim’s advice of taking it from a sort of a servant point of view as opposed to trying to get something out of it individually, yourself is the key thing. And then I would tell you flat out, I’m not a good networker.  Tim is a great networker.  We have a common friend who is probably one of the best networkers I’ve ever met in my life.  And the thing that I’ve done that’s work well, and the thing I’ve seen Tim do well and this other gentleman do well, is that you can just start with who know  and start with areas of common interest, knowledge ,that type of thing and then just sort of branch out there. But I’m going to throw back over to you Tim. I think you are probably one of the best networkers I’ve ever seen.


Tim:                    Well thank you and that’s a very kind compliment but the real key to, I think, building a network is it takes time.  And if you have intention and you have focus and view it as value then you invest the time and the effort.  So the main thing is what I like to call the power of presence is to meet people you have to be present.  And that may be live at an industry function or a professional association meeting or it can even be online now with social media capabilities, LinkedIn is great, Facebook is more B2C oriented and the other key thing is making it a point to meet as many people as possible.  A great tactic, especially if you’re new in an industry or if you are perhaps changing jobs and you’re in a new geographic location and you join a professional association. Take the job in that association and nobody else wants to do and that’s to be the person who is on the membership committee that sits at the signing table when persons come to the meeting and be the person who is there to sign the minutes.  The beauty in that is you get to meet everyone, but before you go to that have a define list of people that you want to meet and as they are coming in and they’re signing in you can greet them and no where in the rule book of life does it say that you can’t give them your business card and say, I’d really like to visit with you but I’m gonna have to man the table until everybody gets in but I’d like to find you after the luncheon or the happy hour or whatever it is.  So having a focus and a plan going in to, who are the people that you would want to meet and then from that leverage the sixty degrees separation.  Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody.  And if you let people know that you have a desire to meet someone, most people are going to be happy to introduce you.  Then again, you want to be courteous and you want to provide introductions to other people, who are you interested in meeting? Who would you like to meet? Would it be helpful to you and your business if you met so and so?  I’d love to introduce you.  And that could be electronically online, just a simple email of if you are at a function, I’m gonna be at that, you’re gonna be at that and the person you want to meet, you know is gonna be there I’m gonna make it a point to make sure you get introduced to that person.  That’s my role, my responsibility.


Scott:                 You could flip that around and just… what are the things that you have seen that we talked a little bit about the people that are career networkers and I did too… What are the things you see that are just dumb?


Tim:                    The thing that I find that is not working is probably the most annoying is the callous and unsophisticated net worker who walks around with a stock of cards and almost as if they are dealing out cards and they’re counting volume instead of quality and running up to people and this very impersonal, disingenuous, I am so and so, may I have your card please and then running off like they are going to go home and count the number of cards.  It’s the people that are important.  And the other key thing I would say in that is your reputation, so if people call you, if people email you, you want to be responsive to those.  Don’t take them for granted. And everyone is someone and they all have values and again in this world of this sixty degrees separation which is really closing more in on five and four, everybody knows somebody and so I would like to meet someone I’m going to be engaged with someone in order to do that.


Scott:                  And being in the moment, that’s another element what I call the power of presence is being in the moment with the other person.  There is nothing more off putting if you will than if I am in a conversation with you and we have eye contact and you’re looking over my right shoulder and or left shoulder looking to see who the next person is that you want to meet, I mean it would shut me out.  So eye contact, I’m in the moment,  the whole rest of the room could be vaporized and we’re gonna be standing here and I’m still gonna be having a conversation with you because you are the most supportive person in the room?


Scott:                 Sorry sir, one more question for you just as I’ve watched Tim speak so much about this. What do you think about the professional, sort of round table weekly or monthly networking groups where you all get together and maybe seen the kind of exchange cards, what do you think about this?


Tim:                    It depends on why you’re in the group and also what business you’re in and most importantly, if you are going to those types of networking events you are going because you wanted to drive business relationships and that’s fine. If you go to those, always come with references but more importantly, referrals to other people based on their business and in exchange they’ll provide you with the same. Be a giver first and a taker second. And if you are a giver first you will receive far more in return than if you simply take. A lot of times what will happen is people who comes to those groups that are takers, they are not only ostracized many times they are asked to leave because their view is, they’re mercenary and they are not engaged in a give and take exchange. So always give value to get value.


Sarah:                Those are some really great tips that I’d like people to take away.  I was actually reading an interesting business insider article entitled the importance of networking and the author discusses how networking is obviously important for marketing but not only your company but also yourself.  And I know we touched on that a little bit when you were talking about reputation but can you guys speak on this a little more and making connect with yourself and your own personal networking brand?


Scott:                 We may be beating a dead horse here by repeating ourselves so much but I can’t speak enough to the fact that you have to be who you are and I can say for instance when we started   Revanade the first dozen clients we had were all people we knew. They were all referrals, they were all based on personal relationships and it wasn’t a matter of going out there and just trying to like Tim said passed business cards to the next person.  It was a matter of saying, how can we find a way to serve whoever it is we are working with?  And each person has to sit down and make a conscious decision about what their brand is, who they are and what they are going to be.  The business world is no different than who you are in the personal world.  So if you see one of those people who at home is mean to their kids and their spouse and then that’s not somebody who you wanna do business with.  I think it’s very careful to think about your business life and your personal life are very integrated.  Whoever you are is going to show up in the brand and when you are talking with and meeting with other people whether its industry, forums or networking or anything else.


Tim:                    Yeah, I would like to amplify that point.  From a professional perspective and thinking back over my career and depending upon where you are, age, experience, career development, however you want to cast it, there is a term that I’ve heard and I’ve found it intriguing which is ‘fake it till make it” and I thought about that and I think that is probably the worst advice that you can give to anyone because faking it ‘til you make it seems to infer that I’m not worthy of where I am, as I am therefore I have to be something or someone rather than who I truly am.  And people see through that.  People have the ability very quickly discern through conversation or online interaction.  Is this person really who they are representing themself to be?  And at the end of the day the best question, this is where we kind of go back to the fundamentals of going to networking events and having conversations with people is having great questions.  You don’t have to be the expert on anything but if you’ve got great questions and you’re in the moment and you’re engaged and you are focused on that other individual and you are asking very genuine how and why questions rather than fact questions you’ll be amazed how people will engage and they’ll open up and the main thing is being a very proactive listener.  You don’t have to be the most eloquent person in the room. You don’t have to know all the facts on anything.  The great questioners are the people that are viewed as a great conversationalist and that’s because they are very intentional listeners.  Listen to the other person because so often we become focused on, I want to tell you all about me, I want tell you all about my company, I want to tell you all about my solution because it’s so great.  No!  Tell me all about you and maybe not even your company, we’ll get to that at some point.  A lot of people, and I remember when I was younger, and say I was going to a meeting and there were going to be executives at a meeting with my major target clients or key accounts, you know and these were men and women in their fifties and very successful and he I am maybe I am in my twenties or early thirties.  I’m at a totally different point in life, how am I going to relate to that person, how do I you know, what am I going to say to that person when I see them? 

                          What is the great about all of us?  We all have to be from somewhere. So the great question is, anybody we can meet regardless of whether it’s at a focus networking or not.  Where ae you from and people will naturally answer you and say well, do you mean where do I grow up?  Yeah, where are you from?  Oh, well I was born in such and such and I grew up in such and such.  I went to… so now I am hearing the story. People love to tell their story, I wanna hear your story.  Tell me your story.


Scott:                       And next thing you know, you’ve started to build a brand of the person who listens really well. And so then people reach out to you and they look for ways to share your stories with you, share their problems with you because they know that Tim is that guy that I can talk to and he will listen. 


Tim:                   Right.


Sarah:                I know you have kind of talk about the power of presence, but do you think there is a big difference between networking via social media platforms and networking face to face? 

                          Do you think one is more effective than the other?


Tim:                    That is an excellent question.  And there is a difference, so let’s talk about the differences in them.  I tend and prefer to network face to face because I can see their body language, I can see their facial expression, I get verbal cues when I am talking to them and I can adjust. When I am   online it’s hard to really understand that.  Here is the other thing about online because we do have different   facets, if you will, in the social media so I would say in a cautionary way don’t allow your personal and your professional social media beliefs and persona to become blended in that social media environment.  So if I was meeting with you for the first time socially, I probably wouldn’t immediately enter into a conversation with you with regards to politics, religion or sex.  Don’t do that online because if you are in a social media environment and somebody, a lot of these formal groups especially, you see people come in and they would, you know, want to put the whole load out there in terms of, somebody said something that spark and you are like, but that’s really not appropriate at this point, so I think that’s something that we want to be caution about.


Scott:                 Yeah, and I’ll even add on to that so good intention to me is probably the most useful mechanism for social media, at least for business. And I was stating an example the other day there was this article, a CEO write t of a software company wrote an article saying, this CEO would never hire another sales person. Don’t know how many of you saw that. It was an extremely interesting article and its clear this guy was writing this to invoke response and he was masterful at what he did.  The responses that follow that bordered on fantastic in a good way to fantastic in an absurd way.  People saying you are an idiot, I can’t believe you write this, blah, blah, blah and on and on and other people agreeing with him.  Some people taking a position of that’s a very interesting conjuring point of view. Here is why I would disagree with that, but thank you for sharing that. Obviously that last answer that I just put out there is probably the right answer to put out for something like that.  You come out here and you start immediately taking offence to a post that somebody has made in a social forum.  What is it gonna show?  Its gonna show that you are hot headed, Its gonna show that that’s your brain.  Like Tim was talking earlier and you were talking earlier, it showing that you’re wearing your emotions on your sleeves. So it’s a matter of in a written form your words mean more than when you are face to face because there is no body language to go with it.  So I find at least that when I’m writing, I need to be a little bit more careful, and a little bit more thoughtful, a little bit slower in my response than when I’m doing it verbally because again I could say something that I think is very innocuous next thing you know, I just offended ten thousand people. So you have to be very, very careful and also be very purposeful in what you’re saying.  One last thing I’d say on the LinkedIn side is that I get requests all the time from people saying please join my LinkedIn network and that’s all it says.  Ninety percent of the time, because I don’t know them, I say no to them.  If I don’t know you then the least you can do is put a little message in there that says, I saw your profile I notice that you work for this place or that place or I saw you in this forum and I really think you are the kind of person who I would like to connect with and get to know.  Can you please add me to your network?


Sarah:                That makes a lot of sense.  I think we are just about out of time guys.  Thank you guys for all of your input today, it was really helpful.  It seems like surrounding yourself with a strong network is really a key to success throughout your career.  I’d like to thank Scott and Tim for joining us today to share their experience and best practices for sales.  We hope you guys enjoyed this session and look forward to seeing you guys at our next podcast as we continue our journey through the world of sales.  Until next time, this is Sarah Lohrmann wishing you the best success.


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