Salespeople certainly had larger than average networks, since knowing a lot of people opened more doors, which led to more deals, but unless you were a super connector, your network would mostly be comprised of people in your local geography. Typically where you lived and the sales territory you supported were often one and same.
The introduction of business networking sites like LinkedIn blew all that up.
Now our networks span the globe. Think “pen pal” on steroids. Using Skype, it is not uncommon for me to talk to four or five people each week who live outside the United States. As an example, last week I talked to people in London, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and Israel. The ability to be globally connected also presents us with unique opportunities to team up with others to conduct business. I personally think that’s incredibly cool.
There’s a dark side.
Early in the history of social media’s evolution, it was not uncommon for people to publicly brag about their number of Twitter followers, email subscribers or LinkedIn network connections. I imagine many still do. On the surface, large numbers sound impressive and certainly bolsters the braggart’s ego when people gasp or applaud admiringly. Me? I’m not impressed.
I’m not impressed because…
• If you find it necessary to blatantly self-promote at every opportunity, I have to wonder why.
• Numbers on their own do not drive ROI – Return on Influence, Impact and Investment.
When I was writing The New Handshake: Sales Meet Social Media in 2009, I believed then, as I have my entire career that it is the mashup of quality plus quantity that matters. Collecting numbers is not the same as developing the interpersonal relationships that lead to the influence you need to be a successful seller.
Yeah, I’m sure I’ll get some flak on this one, but it is my opinion based on my own experience.
Number collectors are why I’ve never been a fan of the LinkedIn LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) concept. These folks will connect with anyone that breathes. With rare exception, there is only one reason they do it. They want bragging rights.
Let’s set aside LinkedIn’s policy for a moment, which says that you connect only with people you actually know, how can you have a relationship with 20,000 individual or more people? Call me a cynic, but my answer is that you can’t.
Words are words and numbers are numbers.
When I think about the ROI of selling, I think a lot about whether or not I’m having a positive impact that influences someone in a good way. Having a large number of connections or followers, does not necessarily make anyone influential. It is easy to talk about “paying it forward” or “giving first”, but in the end, it is the action behind the words and numbers that tell the real story. The question is are you able to discern the difference?