Whether you're using business networking to land a new sales job or create buzz around an upcoming product, weak ties may be more beneficial than close ties. Reaching outside your standard social and business relationships helps you reach more people, discover new opportunities, and widen your perspective.
A study dating back to 1973 sheds some light on the benefit of weak ties and forms the foundation of some of the business networking theories popular today. In conducting a random survey of professionals in Boston, sociologist Mark Granovetter asked businessmen and women how they found their jobs. Over 80 percent of those polled found out about job opportunities through individuals who were only occasional or rare acquaintances. Granovetter pointed out that your normal social circles limit your exposure. In most cases, the people you are around on a weekly or daily basis have similarities to your situation; your close friends, family, and coworkers may live in your area, enjoy the same hobbies you do, or work in the same office or niche.
Usually, when someone in your close circle knows something, you know it too. Consider networking for a job. Someone you work with daily hears about a job at your company; what are the chances you don't already know about the position? Reach further along your business networking system, and you'll find information about opportunities that you don't hear about at work, in your own home, or around your neighborhood.
You can use this same concept to expand your sales potential, especially for products or services that have been available for a while. It doesn't take long to saturate the market associated with your close sales ties. Repeat customers, friends, and business partners only have so much money to spend, and your strongest pitch doesn't change the fact that you may have tapped out your inner circle.
A good sales professional understands that every interaction is an opportunity for business networking. Don't walk around in constant sales mode, but do learn to leverage business relationships of all levels by listening to small details and remembering people. It helps to keep contact notes on your mobile phone—a few weeks from now, you might have a product to offer your work colleague's cousin's friend Albert, who told you at a backyard cookout that he was having trouble with his office copier. Jonathan Goodman of Viralnomics suggests leveraging social media sites like Facebook as a way to keep track of business networking and leverage ties of all levels.
As a sales professional, you'll find it essential to branch out whenever possible. Leveraging weaker links in your business networking allows you to hear about more opportunities and increase your customer base for better sales potential.
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