Tucson is a networking town. How many times have you heard or said that yourself?
We hear that because it’s true. Networking is effective because it is a relevant sales activity in the business culture we have created in this region.
We are open and receptive to a random stranger walking up to us at a business function and introducing himself or herself. It’s not outside our comfort zone; it’s how we hunt for new business.
Try walking up to a random stranger in Boston to network. You’ll quickly relate to Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz” when she realized she wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
We in Tucson are fortunate to have so many diverse business groups that host networking events. Many are open to the public and all welcome prospective new members.
In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of non-dues paying and industry-specific networking groups, many of which can be found in the calendar section of Inside Tucson Business.
Networking is an affordable and effective way to make new contacts while enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or something stronger to drink late in the afternoon.
I view networking as an activity where people are working to make new contacts that they can do business with and receive referrals from — to essentially help them climb the food chain.
It’s also a give-and-take. Successful networkers do an excellent job of helping people connect with others.
The drawback to networking is that eventually successful networkers reach a point where they are giving much more than they are receiving so the incentives and rewards to networking diminish.
As much as Tucson is a networking town, the reality is the majority of businesses do not network.
There are successful businesses in Tucson we do not know about because they fly under the radar. They don’t network, belong to a chamber of commerce or sponsor community events. They are in industries such as manufacturing, research and development or mining, and are found tucked away in industrial areas throughout the region with little visibility. They are established businesses employing anywhere from five to 50 people and want to do business with other local businesses. So, how do you get to them?
Contrary to popular belief, cold calling does work in Tucson, and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. I’m not suggesting you dial for dollars, but for appointments.
If you do your homework and develop your prospecting skills, cold calling a prospect does work. Simply introduce yourself and ask for 15 minutes to learn about their business and to talk about yours.
Cold calling is like batting in baseball, you will fail more than you will succeed but you will develop a batting average. It’s a numbers game. The more you practice, the better you will get, and your cold calling batting average will improve.
It is a skill that needs to be refined and mastered. Learning how to deal with gatekeepers who stand between you and your prospect is huge and they are people you cannot take for granted.
The payoff is when that 15-minute appointment turns into a one-hour visit, including the nickel tour of their facilities. You are in great shape at that point.
Using social media and marketing resources, such as Constant Contact and Infusionsoft, are excellent tools to help you stay in front of your clients and top-of-mind with your prospects. Networking is effective and works great in Tucson, but you have to include other sales activities so as not to limit your potential.
Take advantage of every tool in your sales arsenal, including the phone on your desk in your pocket. Happy hunting!
By: Jerry Bustamante Jerry is senior vice president of public policy and oversees the Southern Arizona office of the Arizona Small Business Association, 4811 E. Grant Road, Suite 262, in Crossroads Festival, phone (520) 327-0222.
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