You just saw a post on LinkedIn of a connection celebrating their role at a new company. You think to yourself, “How did I not know about that dream job?” Did your associate know someone in the company? Did they get it through networking for sales careers, or was the job hired on the quiet? Over the past two years, the quiet shifting of roles has been the new world for sales professionals. Recruitment and hiring practices have changed forever in the post-pandemic world.
Today, you need to be an effective networker, but not in the same sense as networking handing out business cards and attempting to meet potential customers, start the sales process, and close sales. So, before we investigate creating a Networking for Sales Career Opportunity Strategy, let’s look at some of the challenges and barriers you need to overcome.
Networking for sales leads is an easy process. First, identify some networking events you wish to attend where your target customer will visit, use your elevator pitch, have conversations with them, and start the connection. There are often contact lists available post events enabling you to reach out via social networks. The problem is that most people connect with so many people they do not remember them. Sales teams are working hard on networking events to build relationships, but very few have great success.
Networking for Sales Careers is more difficult by the opportunity to meet people is harder as target employers do not often congregate in one location. Instead, you rely on an intermediary, ‘an introducer’, for many roles. Like in sales, getting to the decision-maker can be difficult, and if your timing is not right, it can be a dead-end, or you are lost to the bottom of the stack or other priorities.
With the changing market, you need to overcome other challenges if you want to create a successful Networking for Sales Career Opportunities strategy.
1. Transactional Internal Hiring Departments. Many companies now use internal hiring departments (human resources or talent acquisition personnel) to fill vacancies. They are typically focused on current vacancies, and very few build talent pipelines due to the people being very busy. They are transactionally-minded rather than relationship-minded in how they approach the role.
Their understanding of sales is limited. Some have a poor view of sales, so they can easily pass over resumes based on industry or prior company experience. As a result, you often find yourself hiring familiarity over talent.
2. Recruiters are the Last Resort. Companies have downgraded their reliance on recruiters to fill roles due to the high costs and past experiences. Instead, they engage them when all else is exhausted, which leaves many good candidates off the radar of good career opportunities.
3. Great Opportunities Outside the Box. Targeting competitors is an easy way of networking. There is familiarity with the role, the industry and the sales function. There is also the potential of maybe stepping up the ladder to a sales management or national account management role.
Unfortunately, shifting from one company to the next within an industry can often close many opportunities as employers become concerned over loyalty and confidentiality.
In addition, some companies hire with the intent of ceasing the competitor’s customer list (a failed strategy from years gone by), and others as it’s a lazy way to hire. The problem for sales professionals is that many great opportunities are outside the box in other industries that you can excel in. Unfortunately, you do not know they exist as you do not have sufficient inside knowledge to identify them.
So, your strategy will need to address these challenges and place you in the right position for when great career opportunities come into the market.
Networking or connecting with employers is something you invest in over a period of time. It’s not like responding to job adverts; it’s about setting yourself up to be the shining star when the career opportunity comes to light. It is about being introduced to companies at the right time.
So, let’s look at how it can be done.
1. Set your goals. You have a career path you would like to achieve. They will be goals over a one-, two-, five- and ten-year plan. The goals will include geographical location, responsibilities, skills, and if leadership is in the plan, the team size and geographical area you wish to work.
2. Be visible to those who will introduce you. Successful networking for sales career opportunities revolves around introductions. Being introduced to employers for positions both inside and outside the box at the right time. Being introduced through a medium that is well accepted by employers and not prohibitive due to high recruiter costs.
3. Position yourself with a strong profile. Your profile will be pivotal in creating the right impression and being selected as a potential candidate. Your profile should clearly show where you want to head and not just focus on past achievements.
4. Avoid Over Zealous Approaches. You are in sales, and making cold calls is easy. However, many HR departments find them intimidating and can quickly push you down the line. What is known as great skill in one business unit is seen as overbearing in another.
Avoid spamming your resume (like solution selling vs. features and benefits selling), and ensure that any approach is fully tailored to an actual role.
5. Be Seen on Employer Profiles. Following an employer profile is a fast way to get noticed. It is the first place they will look. Following employers on a dedicated sales job site gets you as close as possible due to the site’s focused nature. You are lost in thousands of other people following them on social media platforms.
With a well-planned networking approach, you can land that dream position.
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