Making connections is a critical part of being successful in business. Whether you’re trying to increase sales, win new customers, attract better talent, or simply share expertise and discuss common challenges, having a close network of likeminded professionals around you is key. For Sian Thomas, founder of Integrow Sales and member of Business West Chambers of Commerce member, using digital tools wisely and finding your purpose is what matters, as she tells Business West.
The way that businesses communicate with each other and their customers had been undergoing a revolution long before COVID-19.
The pandemic simply pushed us through a door already smashed open by digital technologies that have fundamentally changed how, where, and why we work.
Now more than ever, organisations across the South West are looking at how they maximise the opportunities available to them in this new, digitally-enabled world.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of making the right connections.
Fortunately, with the proliferation of social media platforms and video conferencing software, expanding your network and growing your customer base has never been easier, if you know how to use these tools.
Use digital tools wisely
While the likes of Zoom, Teams, LinkedIn and Twitter have taken down geographic barriers and increased business agility, they must be used in the right way if they’re going to lead your business to success.
Sian Thomas, founder of Integrow Sales, says: “The blessing of all this digital networking is that it’s enabled a lot of businesses to go global and make a bigger impact.
“We’re also engaging a lot more on social media, which is great because it initiates conversation and people are more readily available.
“But if you’re talking to people virtually all hours of the day, it can take its toll and actually impact your productivity.”
We often think of these digital tools as being drivers of productivity, which they undoubtedly are.
But it’s also true that we can find ourselves aimlessly scrolling LinkedIn when we should be focused on sales prospects and commercial opportunities.
Sian says: “I think, overall, it’s going to make people work more efficiently.
“But it’s like anything, you’ve got to leverage the tools available to suit your particular aims.”
•Digital tools have enabled people to network more efficiently, but they must be used wisely to boost productivity
•Integrow Sales can help you deliver competitive advantage through effective marketing and sales implementation. For more information, visit, www.integrowsalesbristol.co.uk/
A lot of business has been conducted remotely over the last two years out of necessity. But moving forward, it is likely to be a hybrid approach that finds favour.
Some people have longed for the return of face-to-face interaction and in-person meetings and events, while others will prefer to do things virtually both now and in the future.
If you’re looking at how to take your sales and networking strategy forward in light of this new hybrid context, the key thing to remember is to communicate with people at a level that suits them.
Sian says: “Certain people like to do things in a certain way and when you’re looking at the sales process, it’s ‘know thyself, know thy market’.
“If your market is naturally very tactile, then you have to serve your customers at a level they’re comfortable at.
“But if your customer doesn’t want to work face-to-face, you have to accommodate that as well.”
• Adopting a hybrid approach to communication will ensure that you’re engaging with your customers and connections at a level that suits them
The future of sales
When it comes to winning new customers, the advent of digital technologies means that salespeople must find new ways to engage prospects and work harder to get their attention.
Simply picking up the phone and cold calling a list of potential leads or going door-to-door will no longer cut it in an era where people are instinctively wary of being sold to in this way and are instead spending more time engaging with brands online and on social media.
The future of sales is therefore much more about building relationships with customers over time, demonstrating value and earning the right to be heard.
Sian says: “You can be direct in terms of your sales approach, but you can’t be aggressive.
“I think that’s very outmoded and digital has played a part in that.
“It's very consensual now in the way salespeople communicate.
“It’s all about the value you bring, and you’ve really got to earn the right to have the conversation.”
One of the reasons for all these changes is that the market has become so much more competitive in the digital age, as many of the barriers to entry for new businesses have been eroded.
With new brands coming online all the time, simply getting noticed by potential customers has become the new frontier of sales.
Sian adds: “The hardest thing you can do to engage a prospect today is actually get their attention.”
• Remember, the future of sales is about building relationships, demonstrating value and earning the right to be heard
Find purpose and connect with people
One of the best ways to cut through the noise is to find your purpose and remember that people connect with people.
Sian says: “People are engaging with companies that have a purpose and so you’ve got to find your tribe who buy into your purpose and are going to love what you say and do.
“The riches are in the niches, but you have to be authentic and really believe in what you’re trying to advocate.”
Demonstrating that authenticity requires taking your ego out of the equation when communicating with customers.
Sian adds: “People connect with people at the end of the day.
“As a salesperson, you don’t sell to buildings, you sell to people, so it’s about understanding your customer’s needs and making yourself indispensable.”
“You’ve got to be focused on your goals and targets but showing consideration is equally important.”
• Finding your purpose will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competitors
Have more conversations
Armed with new digital tools, a vision of the future of sales and a renewed understanding of your purpose and your customer’s needs, the only thing left to do is to have more conversations.
Something that will never change in the world of networking and sales is the benefit of putting yourself and your business out there in the market as much as possible.
Not only are you likely to make more connections and generate sales leads, but you’ll also benefit from peer-to-peer learning and shared expertise, both of which are vital for taking your business forward.
Sian adds: “If you’re going to be in business and you want to get on, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone.
“Most of all, have fun with it – because what’s the point in doing all this stuff if you’re not enjoying it?”
• With networking and sales, it all comes down to having more conversations – so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there