Business PartnersGuest blogger Ken Thoreson tells how to grow your referral networks.

I drove 90 minutes in traffic to attend a networking event. I’d only been home from vacation for a week and was still fighting jet lag, but the walls were closing in on me. I had to get out, connect with new people, and renew relationships with others. After all, networking is one of the most important marketing best practices for a sales professional.

If your sales strategy doesn’t include at least one business networking event per week, you’re missing out on your greatest opportunity to expand your referral networks. Whether a business is ultrahigh tech or low tech, personal relationships have always been what seal the deal in B2B sales. So if you’re not taking time to make in-person connections, then you’re making the biggest sales mistake there is. 

That’s why I asked Ken Thoreson for permission to share his brilliant post, “Smarter Salespeople: Power Network Map,” in this month’s No More Cold Calling guest post. Here’s his take:

“This blog is dedicated to salespeople who never want to ‘dial for dollars’ or who never want to make a cold call again! Now that I have your attention …

During a recent client sales meeting, we talked about the power of networking, the need to expand the influence of one’s reach, and effective ways to find new and better sales opportunities. For example, each salesperson would be assigned to at least one business networking event per month.

If you aren’t doing this now, make it part of your next sales activity planning session. In fact, as I was writing this column, one of this client’s salespeople called me to discuss a breakfast event he attended, and the connection he made with an IT professional from a local law firm. This new connection opened up to the sales rep about what was happening at his firm, identified the major players, and outlined challenges/frustrations they were facing. The salesperson causally listened without attempting to sell. Then he booked a lunch meeting the next week, simply to expand the relationship!

Smooth move. After the lunch—or during that time—the salesperson can work to better understand the situation, relationships, budgets, and business requirements at play. Then he can begin to sell.

Create an Acumen Power Network Map

If you aren’t ‘connected’ in your marketplace, start networking now! All successful salespeople are well connected within their communities and have defined business relationships. Are you?

The conversations at my client’s office led to our best new thought of the year—the Acumen Power Network Map. After discussing the current sales environment, business networking, ineffective cold calls, and the lack of experienced reps, we created an approach that can immediately change your sales and marketing best practices.

What are the secret steps to the Acumen Power Network Map?

1. Identify a ‘raving fan’—someone who uses your current services, will recommend your company, and can tell stories about your quality level of support.

2. Use social media to learn what you can about the raving fan’s business and personal networks.

3. Develop a map of the raving fan’s associations, board memberships, activities, and interests.

4. List all the other individuals involved with those associations, boards, or activities.

5. Identify the organizations those individuals work for, and determine which organizations might fit your company’s ideal client profile. Which fit your vertical focus? Do you have existing case studies that fit these companies’ needs? Have you sold to similar organizations?

6. Ask your raving fan to make referral introductions to the targeted organizations and individuals you wish to meet—either via email, a phone call, or even a mutual lunch meeting. Getting an introduction via a known source or a friendly relationship increases your odds of achieving a new relationship and meeting by 66 percent!

This kind of smart work will help you target and sell more effectively, reduce your wasted phone prospecting time, increase your odds of developing new account relationships, expand your referral networks, and open the door to exceeding your quotas. In short, do your homework and count commissions.”

(Note: The original version of this post appeared on Ken Thoreson’s blog—

KenAbout the Author
Ken Thoreson is the president of Acumen Management Group Ltd., a consulting firm which “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 16 years, Acumen’s consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Ken has written several books, the latest of which is SLAMMED!!! For the First Time Sales Manager.