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22 January 2013

Networking is a Tricky Business

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Rules of Engagement, aka Sales Tenets

It is a well-known fact that there are three basic tenets to closing a sale:

  1. We conduct business with people with like, respect, and trust.
  2. We tend to buy from people who make us feel like they like us, not just our wallet.
  3. We desire to buy products and services from people who have something to sell that will fulfill one of our needs.

Unequal Sales Terrain

So what happens when someone shows genuine interest in YOUR product or service, but you have absolutely no interest in what the other person is selling? You connect on sales tenets 1 and 2, but just don’t connect on 3. How do you still close the sale—not because you’re smarmy, but because you really think your prospective customer wants to buy?

CD Cover for debut CD Something on the WayIn the last couple of years, Kent and I have been on both sides of this equation. We’ve been faced with people who don’t want to buy our CD, but want us to invest (generally more) in something they are selling. We’ve also been faced with people who support us in our music and other business initiatives, but represent a product or service for which we have no need or desire to purchase.

These unequal exchanges pose a quandary. Do you purchase from the other person just to “level the playing field” and make him/her feel good? Do you choose NOT to buy from someone who snubs what you are selling—taking it as a personal affront? Not easy questions to answer.

Difficult Decisions

When I was recently posed with this issue, I decided to rely on my analytical mind to puzzle through the problem. First, I decided that even if I’m on the “short side” of the equation (not receiving a sale) it only harms me to be “short-sided”. If I truly can benefit from the purchase of the person’s product or service, why take it personally that he/she doesn’t have the same interest in what I am selling? By the same token, though, if I do not truly need what is being offered, then I may want to find a different sales equation, where the exchange is more equitable. The counter-point of course is that neither of us might be a match for each other, but we may be able to connect one another with a friend who IS a match. And isn’t that what networking is truly about? Connections?

Tenets Applied

At a minimum, the first tenet must be met for me to engage in purchasing from or referring someone I meet networking. If the person can’t meet the basics of being likable, respectable, and trustworthy, it goes against my nature to purchase from him/her or make a referral to others who may benefit from such a connection. I feel this is an issue of integrity, and integrity is one of my core values.

Secondly, I may really connect with the person as a human being, but if I find that what they represent is off-putting to me, then the first sales tenet may be compromised as well. For me, MLM (multi-level marketing) representatives always fall into this category. I wish individuals involved in MLM schemes well and hope they are able to fulfill their life’s goals, however, I am not interested in hearing about the company they represent nor will I refer to any of my friends—even if the product sounds amazing.

Sales Summarized

So, at the end of the day, we each define our own “rules of engagement” in the networking realm. Even if I don’t personally desire to purchase from an individual, or the person doesn’t desire to purchase from me, I am happy to help the person by making connections within my network IF I am able to apply the tenets outlined above in a manner that is satisfactory to me.

What are YOUR “networking rules of engagement”?

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