Over the years, we have observed what the best sales reps do to build strong relationships with customers and prospects. To date we presented these best practices to GTM organizations at our portfolio companies. Today we are sharing our insights on the below four categories:
- How to build your network
- How to nurture your network
- How to leverage your network
- How to tap into other people’s networks
1. How to Build Your Network
Building a network is more than adding names to a list – it’s a year-round commitment to broadening your circle.
Ways to build your network:
- Lead with value: provide helpful information and perspectives on the market or problem space. Write 1-2 blog posts a year. Pick topics that will both resonate with your contacts and build a reputation for yourself as an expert. (See Sean’s capital efficiency blog for an example).
- Find common ground: Leverage commonalities with the other person (e.g., educational or work background, volunteer experience).
- Leverage conferences and industry events: Research people to meet and stand in high-traffic areas. Schedule follow-up meetings after the event and follow through with any materials you mentioned.
- Host events and webinars: Create community with people who have common interests and business issues. Ask invitees to bring a guest. When you meet someone new at an event, invite them to another one. For example, Workato created the Systematic Community for Business Systems Analysts and hosts in-person events for them.
2. How to Nurture Your Network
Relationships are a two-way street. Consider what you can give as well as what you might gain. Here are our top tips:
- Get to know people holistically, not just as a business contact: Remember people’s hobbies, spouse, children, pets, travel, stories, etc. Be a good listener and make your prospective buyer feel heard. Take notes on your conversation and use a personal CRM.
- Prioritize in-person meetings: Even if you don’t live in the same city, try to meet up when you’re in town. We find breakfasts to be best, as most people can make room in the morning.
- Stay in touch throughout the year: Offer congratulations on a promotion or major milestone. Remember birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays (BirthdayAlarm.com is a great tool).
- Check LinkedIn daily: Someone may have moved to a new company or taken a new position (Connect the Dots is a great platform for this).
- Leverage activity-based events to deepen relationships: Invite prospects to sports events, pickleball, golf, or another activity-based event. This is a great way to get to know people on a personal level outside of the office setting.
Sean invites the founders and tech executives in his network to run half marathons — and likens it to starting a company.
3. How to Leverage Your Network
After you’ve built a network, it’s time to thoughtfully leverage it. Here are the most impactful ways to do so:
- Highlight your customers: Word of mouth and customer love are the most powerful sales tools. Ask to feature your customers in case studies, spotlight them at your company’s customer conference, and ask them to act as references
- Ask for intros: Ask friends and colleagues if they have 1st or 2nd-degree connections with target prospects. Check if existing customers are open to connecting you to their peers. Send people a draft email that they can forward easily that details why you’d like to connect with them.
- Organize your contacts: Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to create lead lists and stay on top of your network. Review your lists periodically to remind yourself of your contacts.
4. How to Leverage Other People’s Networks
Everyone in your network has a network of their own. Here are ways to thoughtfully tap into them:
- Express Gratitude: Send thank you notes. People love feeling like they were part of the journey to your success. Even if you close a deal 3-6 months after someone’s initial introduction, follow-up and share the news along with your gratitude. For larger deals, send a bottle of their favorite wine or another small gift as a token of your appreciation.
- Leverage your Board of Directors: Connect with your company’s investors on LinkedIn and check if they’re connected with your target prospects. If yes, email them to ask for a warm introduction. In addition, ask investors to help close major deals if you see that they know senior executives in the decision making process.
- Share a Forwardable Email: Craft a personalized email that your investor can easily forward.
Here’s an example email inspired by how one of our portfolio companies leveraged the tactics above:
From: Sean Jacobsohn
To: [Contact name]
Subject: potential intro
I hope you’re doing well.
I would like to introduce you to [company], one of my portfolio companies. They are focused on [company solution] which complements and extends your [goal or investment] by [relevant benefit statement].
[Company founder name], one of the founders, will be in NYC next week and would love to meet you. Let me know if you have some time for her to stop by your office. In the meantime, see below a quick intro from her.
Hi [contact name],
I’m the co-founder of [company], and we are focused on [company solution and clear, relevant benefit statement]. A couple of examples:
• [Use case for contact’s company]
• [A short demo or workflow demonstrating benefit for contact’s company]
I’m going to be in NYC next week on Monday and Tuesday and would love to meet with you if you are open to it? Please let me know.