It is highly likely that you are pursuing a sales career, or have a position working with sales teams because you are something of a ‘people person’. Sales skills honed over your career can also stand you in good stead when looking for your next job opportunity. After all, you are now selling yourself, working to persuade employers that you are worth investing in. It is vital that you stand out from the crowd and present yourself in the best possible light, as there is normally a high level of competition for good quality sales jobs.
One way to get yourself noticed and build up useful working relationships is through networking. This is all about cultivating those people around you who can help you professionally and it does require a certain level of skill and persistence. Here are some tips to help you network your way to the top of the sales ladder and make sure that you are remembered by those you encounter for all the right reasons.
Prepare your networking pitch
Just as you wouldn’t enter a sales appointment without preparation, nor walk into a job interview without having done your research, it is important to do your homework prior to a networking opportunity. It is very likely that you will be asked, “What do you do?” or “Who are you?” at a networking event. This is a great opportunity to present a pre-planned pitch that shows you to be confident, interesting and ready to do business. Write down three to four points about yourself and your sales career and spend time deciding how much detail to give on each one. You really don’t want to be talking for ages about irrelevant things that will bore your audience to tears. However, too short a pitch and you will not come across as experienced enough.
Practice makes perfect, especially for networking
Practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. You may consider yourself a confident salesperson already, but it can be far harder selling yourself in a face-to-face situation. Watch your facial expressions in the mirror; you should aim to look confident, friendly and engaging. Some people prefer to record themselves talking and play the video back to analyse how they look and sound. Ask other people to listen to you and give their opinion. Get them to ask you questions too, and interrupt you a few times so that you are not put off if this happens in real life.
Have a goal in mind
While conversation with like-minded peers at a social event can be very pleasant, always remember that you have a goal in mind. This could be securing a new role or finding new industry contacts. Perhaps you are looking for a mentor to help you progress in your sales career. Knowing what you want to get out of a networking event helps you to frame your conversations and decide who to talk to and for how long. Try not to spend ages with one person – the more people you meet, the more likely it will be that you will find the right match for your goals. That said, don’t be too quick to move on from a conversation either, as this could come across as rude or abrupt.
Nervous? Ice-breakers are your friend
Networking may not always come naturally to you, even if you have solid sales skills and enjoy talking to people. Again, planning is key here – work out a few ice-breakers to get the conversation started or to have up your sleeve in case things dry up. People tend to enjoy talking about themselves, so ask questions about their career, background, interests etc. Keep things light by asking if they watched a recent sporting event or (politely) enquire about the reason why they came along to the event. Ask their advice on a challenge you are having at work – real or invented. Avoid controversial or overly personal topics of conversation, such as gossip, politics or death. Finally, “fake it until you make it” with your confidence, keeping up a strong posture, giving a firm handshake during introductions and speaking in a steady, strong voice.
Look, listen and learn!
Always listen to what the other person is saying, even if you are dying to ask them another question. People can generally tell when their conversation partner is listening to them or not. When networking, use positive body language, such as standing with your whole body facing them, making solid eye contact (looking away occasionally to avoid becoming too intense) nodding or shaking your head as appropriate and asking questions. Another way to show active listening is to rephrase part of what the speaker has just said. This ensures that you understand them – and lets them know that you value what they are saying to you.
If you need more support on improving your networking skills to help you land a new sales job, contact us at SalesNet to see how we can help and advice you.