I can trace nearly anything significant that has happened in my life to the power of strategic relationships—their connectivity, and their give and take. Especially as sellers, our success is dependent upon who we know… and in turn, who they know.
For that reason, the social “dimension” is one of the key skills behind the skills for modern sellers. Modern sellers need to build the social dimension for several reasons:
- More decisions today are made by buying committees, which means that relationships must be wider and deeper than ever before.
- Modern sellers can make fewer cold calls because of their network ecosystem, and they have more reach and influence because of it.
- The social dimension is even more valuable in this age of artificial intelligence (AI). While AI provides valuable insights and can help us make better decisions with data—it’s still about human connection.
When it comes down to business, social capital is the collective value of our relationships and what is created through those relationships. The more we invest, the more social capital we create. As our social capital grows, we can reach goals more quickly and with greater impact. Time, talent, treasure, and ties increase your social capital and accelerate strategic relationship building.
Several key components must come together for us as sellers to build our social dimension and our social capital: mindset, goals, network ecosystem, and habits. In this article, we’ll delve into your habits as a modern seller or sales leader.
Your social habits are the small actions you’re consistent with that further your strategic relationships. These are seven of the habits have helped me to quickly accelerate my progress:
- Connect with Centers of Influence regularly. Centers of influence (COIs) are those people in your network who are very well connected, both broadly and deeply. They could be operational, personal, or strategic. They understand the value in sharing their expertise and connections. They can also connect you with other COIs. When you’ve established who in your network are your COIs, and then those who are most aligned to your goals, those are relationships you’ll want to devote your time and give your greatest focus.
- Join an organization and the highest-profile committee that ties directly to your goal. If your network ecosystem contains industry organizations, target two which can most directly impact your goal. With two, choose one to join with the intention of membership only and the other in which you’ll make a deeper social capital investment. Begin with the one that will get your greater focus, and then join their highest profile committee. This will help you immediately raise your profile, make connections more quickly, and provide value in a genuine way.
- Connect people weekly. In every conversation I have with someone in my network, it’s my intention to connect them to other people, to ideas, or with resources to help them reach their goals. Each week, I make it a goal to connect at least two people in my network with something of importance to them. With your network ecosystem map, this will provide more focus as you’re working with a specific set of relationships and goals.
- Develop strategic alliances. This one habit has helped me reach my goals more quickly and with greater impact. I’ve found it works best when you have similar goals, similar target markets, and complementary offerings. As you look at your goal, who in your network ecosystem might have a similar goal? Who might be looking to increase his or her impact at a level similar to you? Who offers products and services that complement you, and serves the same types of markets?
- Develop an expertise you can become known for. In a world of increasing commoditization, modern sellers stand out with a specific expertise or niche. Does your current goal give you this opportunity? If you’re in an industry where this is particularly challenging, look at your approach, or the how behind what you do. How can you make the experience better? Can you differentiate in how you deliver your product or service? Your expertise or niche can become the how instead of the
- Practice the art of the ask with higher-level relationships. There are going to be times when you need to make an ask to move a significant goal forward and you’ll be lacking the right level of social capital. If your network ecosystem map has gap with strategic relationships or centers of influence, you’ll need to add those to your mix.
- Create a consistent and positive experience. Your conversations are your opportunity to create a positive and lasting impression— one which will lead to strong social capital. With bigger goals and higher-level COIs, stakeholders, and decision makers, your attention to these details are expected. If you’re going to set the conversation, prioritize the time to prepare for it and lead it. Know your goals for the conversation, send out a short agenda ahead of time, and have your questions ready. Be prepared to lead the conversation, set any next action steps and follow through. These don’t have to be overdone to be done right, and your preparation will set you apart.