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Salespeople — don’t overlook the power of networking

Bill Lee

When I founded Lee Resources, Inc., one of the most productive activities we organized were roundtables made up of non-competing building supply owners and managers. The roundtable members would come to meetings we organized prepared to discuss their measurable performance in a number of key areas.

The key to this exercise was that while each company was successful in its own market, each executive was eager to compare his or her measurable results to learn how they stacked up against each other’s performance.

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All kinds of ideas developed from each roundtable as each dealer announced their level of performance in each measurable category. Gross margin, average collection days, inventory turnover, inventory shrinkage, and returned merchandise as a percentage of sales were just a few of the measurable results that were discussed.

The numbers were important, but the way they achieved the performance levels was what the individual dealers were most interested in learning.

A big part of my business at Lee Resources has always been presenting training programs for my client base. I joined an organization called the National Speakers Association (NSA). Even before becoming a member of NSA, I began to identify the members whom I perceived to be the most successful at sales training. Eventu-ally, several of those speakers and I got togeth-er and formed a sub-group we called Master Speakers International (MSI). We met quarterly to discuss the problems in our respective busi-nesses and what we had done to solve them.

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There were no secrets between us because none of us competed with each other. We were all totally open in sharing both our problems and our successes.

What I learned from networking with these successful sales trainers was the single most important activity I did to set myself apart from my competitors.

As you attend industry functions, I strongly encourage you to meet as many non-competing salespeople as you can who sell the kinds of products you sell to the kinds of customers and prospects you also sell to. Swap business cards and make good notes about your impressions of each salesperson you meet. The key, again, is that these salespeople are not competitors. They work in different markets, so each of you can feel comfortable openly discussing the con-fidential kinds of issues virtually all building material salespeople encounter.

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We had seven members of MSI who stayed in the group for the long haul, just short of 20 years. We used each other to bounce ideas off of, to brainstorm solutions to common problems we were facing, and to discuss how to turn pros-pects into customers, how to overcome objec-tions, how to deal with pricing objections, how to upgrade sales to higher quality and higher profit levels, etc.

If one of the members of our group was fac-ing a really big opportunity to sell a big job, we might schedule a special telephone meeting so we could all provide our input for how he or she might best present the case that their company was in the best position to provide the training.

Outsiders, people who know what you are going through but who don’t have emotions involved, can be worth their weight in gold to enable the salesperson who has, say, a multi- million dollar job on the line, to take a more objective approach to the sales presentation.

When the members of MSI began to retire, we had one final meeting. It was 100% social, but to a person, we all agreed that MSI had been the single most influential factor on the success of our respective businesses.

Networking is a powerful and important learning and marketing tool!

 

Bill Lee is a respected sales and business consultant in the LBM industry. For more information, contact Bill at leeresourcesinc@gmail.com

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