A good product or service is important to a business, but it’s relationships that sell.
That was Kristen Cumming’s message during a presentation to a group of business people in Red Deer on Thursday.
Speaking at a meeting of the Red Deer Leads Executive Association, Cumming described the importance of effective networking and the relationships that result.
A Red Deer-based organizational career development, human resources and performance specialist, she suggested that business people should convey a passion for what they do.
Instead of introducing themselves as a “senior regional executive vice-president,” they should opt for, “I help companies make great use of human resources,” or, “I help businesses succeed.”
Cumming and her husband raise, train and sell horses. They’ve adopted the tag line: “We connect great horses with the right people.”
“People rely way too much on their rank and file, and that’s a difficult foundation for relationship-building,” she said.
Focus instead on why you do what you do, and why it has value, meaning and purpose, she added.
Cumming also urged her audience to clearly understand their business and its attributes, as well as what’s happening in the marketplace and how their business is evolving in response.
Link this information with your passion, and you have a powerful formula for relationship-building — which is the basis for success.
“Sales are a by-product of relationships, rather than the other way around.”
It’s important to understand your business from the inside-out, said Cumming. Seek to understand those you work with, the broader company, your industry and your community — and align your values with their’s.
She also suggested divergent thinking when it comes to networking. Look beyond obvious opportunities to new and different ones, such as interacting with people in seemingly unrelated markets.
“You don’t know who they know, and you don’t know what they do when they’re not selling their widgets.”
Such relationships might benefit your business in ways unrelated to sales — such as giving you ideas for operational improvements.
“It’s not just sales and revenue that we’re drawing on. It’s about relationships that can yield a far richer series of outcomes.”
Cumming also stressed the importance of preparing for success, so you can take advantage of the opportunities that new or improved relationships provide.
“What too many organizations do is they network successfully but they don’t prepare for increased work and then they can’t follow up on those leads.”