Sellers are generally in hunting mode. We’re always cognizant of the next sale, and network openly to maximize our success. We like to think we’re good at maintaining our network. After all, we’re sellers, and managing relationships is part of selling.
This seemingly simple concept eludes many. A business network is a two-way street. It’s filled with cars and several lanes. The more time passes, the farther the distance between cars. And yet, sellers too frequently ignore the distance. Even worse, they ignore stranded motorists who could use a lift.
One of my biggest professional pet peeves is when people reach out only when they want something. They are gung-ho about a new job and are convinced I need to buy what they’re selling. Or, they were downsized and need a job. Or, they want a reference. Or, a testimonial. Take, take, take.
Imagine this scenario:
You accept a sales job, brimming with excitement about sharing the news with your network. The new gig has a similar client base to one of your old gigs. Cha-CHING! Recycling former clients is way easier than hunting. If you play your cards right, you’ll make quota on the backs of your go-to contacts with minimal effort.
You dutifully notify your network about your new job. You’re somewhat annoyed at the mixed reaction. While some clients agree to hear your new pitch, most are unmoved and generally underwhelmed by your offering. In fact, one former client sarcastically responded, “All right. So what are you schilling NOW??” Yikes.
A year passes. You’re under quota. You see an alert on LinkedIn that one of your former colleagues accepted a new position with one of your hottest competitors. Fearing your days are numbered at your current job, you call your former colleague and see if they need any more reps. She was surprised to hear your voice — shocked, in fact — since you hadn’t spoken in more than two years. You pretend it’s not awkward; and, after a few trivial pleasantries, you take the leap and ask if there are any more sales openings on her team. She dryly responds, “I don’t really know. Check the website. Gotta run.”
Consider this blog post an intervention — a plea to nurture your network loudly and often. Send your professional contacts information that is meaningful and timely, not because it’s lining your pockets, but because you want them to excel. Check in with your former co-workers from time to time to see how they are doing. If you were a client at one point and truly valued the expertise and service of one of your vendors, call them to let them know you were thinking about them.
If you don’t want your networking license to be revoked, strive to be a gracious corporate citizen, no matter your employer or role. By doing so, you’ll strengthen your network and they’ll be happy to hear from you.