It is said that if a business is not continually selling, it is slowly dying. Selling is the lifeblood of every enterprise and it is from this point that all its fortunes or misfortunes are birthed.
In any small business, the key driver of sales is the founder or the owner who is the de facto sales person number one. Thus, the success of the venture during start up stages depends almost entirely on the selling skills of the owner.
Whether you are a startup entrepreneur or a professional, one of the surest and most effective way to be continually selling is to expand your professional and social network. People are the greatest asset in business.
Your network is the single greatest determiner of success or failure in business.
Ask any woman and they will tell you that when they require a house-help, and they do it quite often, the first step is always to contact their friends for help and recommendation. Their friends may not have someone at hand but they too consult their friends and ask them if they know or have a friend who knows someone reliable for the job. The speed and chances of getting one depends on the quality and quantity of one’s friends and their friends. It is a network.
In business, building a good network is one of the best investments with guaranteed returns. This helps you to net direct and indirect customers as well as generate quality leads. Friends are a goldmine. Unfortunately, most people don’t mine this goldmine. They are either too shy or ignorant when it comes to exploiting the power of networks. In other words, they don’t market themselves or their products to their network even when opportunities come their way. An average person knows about 250 people. Some of these people can and would be willing to help you if they know how or if you asked them. They may not necessarily be your direct customers but they can tell their friends about your product, help you with ideas or useful leads if only you approached them. But often you don’t.
For example, how many of your friends and acquaintances, the people you meet and interact with in places of social places, in your neighbourhoods and in the pathways of life know exactly what you do? Some people feel that it is not modest or they will spoil relationships if they were to go selling their wares whenever they meet their friends. True, direct selling, especially in the wrong places and at the wrong timings may make you a nuisance and kill relationships if not done well.
Basically networking is not about sales. It is about conversations that can lead to connections and business relationships. Networking gives you a chance to meet new people who might become customers and to connect with people who might know others who could become your customers. It is also an opportunity to know what other people do and how you can be of help to them. You should not connect with people seeking to gain only. Aim to develop a win-win relationship. Be genuinely interested in what your friends do and how you can help them, and especially allowing them to gain access and benefit from your friends. This way they will reciprocate by getting interested in your business and helping you too.
Another key success factor is to choose the people you network with well. Not all people are worthy building relationship with. It does not really matter how many friends you have on Facebook or professional contacts on LinkedIn. What matters is their quality and how you nurture them. Maintaining friends is like tending a garden; you need to periodically weed, manure and prune some branches so that others can grow well.
By MURORI KIUNGA
This article was first published in the Business Daily Newspaper on Monday 20th February, 2017.