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March 31, 2015

How Relationship Capital Drives Sales Leads

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relationship selling

Amid all the marketing and communications tools meant to make the process of finding and converting leads faster and more efficient, your sales team might be missing one particularly tactical weapon, and with it, opportunities to drive more sales through the funnel.

Relationship capital, or the web of connections that accomplished professionals cultivate throughout their careers, is an asset to be mined like any other for leads, warm introductions, and sales. And unlike data know-how or product expertise, it's not limited to one department or team within your organization.

Unfortunately, many salespeople fail to maximize the connections that already exist between their colleagues and potential clients. But by formalizing an internal network-mining process, your organization can:

  • Expand the pool of prospective clients by accessing networks outside of your traditional sphere.
  • Generate warm introductions through mutual connections.
  • Maintain a more robust pipeline.
  • Shorten your sales cycle by starting with warmer leads.
  • Increase organization-wide engagement among both sales and non-sales employees.

So why don't more sales executives integrate relationship mining into their strategies?

The first roadblock is often the mistaken idea that business development is the job of sales departments and no one else. In reality, all members of an organization, leadership included, are not only responsible for revenue generation, but can have a significant impact by way of their business networks.

Second, sales teams that do reach out to non-sales staff for leads often rely on ineffective methods; for example, shooting out a mass email asking whether anyone knows someone at Firm X. Aside from the white noise factor, these emails fail to extend to your colleagues' secondary network -- the people who their first-degree contacts know. This pool is often where critical introductions come from, and email blasts won't get you access to it.

An easy way to resolve the outreach issue is by investing in systems that not only mine secondary networks but also identify paths between individuals you might not be able to unearth on your own, boosting both leads and conversion rates. Yes, it's another piece of tech in an already increasing stack, and yes, there is an upfront cost, but the return -- in leads, time saved, and revenue -- is significant.

Finally, an effective network mining campaign requires activating a relationship capital culture at your organization. That means, first and foremost, open communication across all departments and up and down the hierarchy. This can be tough when divisions, departments, and teams are siloed, and leadership is separated from the broader employee base. This is perhaps the roadblock that requires the most effort to get past.

But it is possible to break down these barriers. A few strategies that might help:

  1. Job shadowing programs that ask workers to temporarily take on the tasks of a colleague on a different team.
  2. Cross-departmental brainstorming sessions to increase engagement and buy in across your organization.
  3. More stringent email policies that force employees to interact face to face.

Once the siloes come tumbling down, it's critical to give employees agency over their networks even as you ask to mine them. Team members must remain the gatekeepers of their relationships, controlling which they'll share, who can be contacted, and how. For those still reluctant to open up their rolodexes, consider incentive programs in the vein of commissions -- monetary or otherwise.

Sales teams that are not focused on finding and mining relationships within their firms are at a critical disadvantage when it comes to lead and revenue generation. To activate your company's network and see leads and conversions soar, start by breaking down the walls that separate teams and creating an open culture of communication where employees feel comfortable sharing connections. Sales might see the uptick, but the entire organization will feel the impact.

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Topics: Social Selling

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