Networking No – when sales is a dirty word

Not all relationships are about sales.  In my journey out into the digital world, it’s clear that ‘sales’ is something people shy away from or are cautious about. Sometimes it can be difficult to just build a professional relationship if you’re coming from a sales background.

Maybe it’s because of the innate fear of being taken for a ride or ending up with something we don’t actually need. So we think the pitch is hidden under words like partnership or collaboration and the invitations or requests often come with hidden agendas. While technology changes the way we connect and communicate there are still basics that benefit everyone.

I’m new to LinkedIn, but here’s three things I’ve learned about building professional relationships, that are still relevant in the digital world:

  1. Make actual conversation. Ask real questions. Often in sales roles, we can forget that it’s not about the mechanics of a networking, but the relationships that are made.  True relationships involve mutual benefit for both parties. I first started on Linkedin to learn more about my industry, and the people I am talking to have something to offer – so what is it?  What can I learn or get a better understanding of from speaking with them?
  2. Be interested in their role in the business.  Professionally, it’s important for me to make connections with others in similar roles in the marketing industry.  Not because I see them as potential clients, but because there’s value in getting to know how other professionals in my industry think and operate. I’m genuinely interested in how other businesses work, how they process their service needs and how they engage with people. On the flip side this means I have to be prepared to share my insights and industry knowledge to achieve the desired mutual value.
  3. Be sincere about your intentions.  Why are you connecting – if it’s because you see a legitimate opportunity for professional connection then explain that, but also explain why.   It’s the sincerity that is the important part.  You can tell when someone isn’t being authentic and digital communication only amplifies it.

I may have had a lot of experience but what does it really amount to compared with the combined experience available in a good networking relationship? Knowing what you don’t know is a vital feature of long-term growth and success in any role.Nobody can know it all and it’s very easy to be limited by your own perceptions. Networking broadens those perceptions and opens a wealth of experience ready to be tapped.

What conventional networking skills are you applying in the digital world?  I’d be interested to hear about what others are doing.

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