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What are your Connections Worth?


Sales people can take a lot of flak in a tech business. They’re not geeky enough to build the products. They’re not creative enough to design the brand. They wear shirts and ties while everyone else is swanning around in trendy shorts and tees.

And they spend all day on the phone annoying people with their sales pitches… before ending the month with the sorts of bonuses that make the rest of us green with envy.

But we have to admit they deserve it. Winning sales isn’t easy, and tracking down leads can take a lot of time and effort.

Salesconx.com is trying to make things easier. It lets US-based sales professionals introduce the people they know to other sales professionals — and pocket a fee for the service.

Psst… Wanna Buy a Used Client?
The examples the site gives are fairly innocuous. One case study describes how a furniture salesman noticed that a telecoms seller was looking for leads for his communication equipment. Knowing that his client needed that sort of product to put on his new desk too, the furniture seller made the introduction and earned a $100 commission on a sale of $5,000.

No one was hurt and everyone gained… provided the communications equipment does the job and works better than a couple of cans and a piece of string.

But it’s easy to see the problem here. A referrer can tell the seller that “This company needs services like yours.” That’s valuable. To the buyer though all he can say is: “This person is selling the stuff you’re looking for.” He can’t say whether the product is good, the service helpful and the technician knowledgeable. If he’s being paid for the introduction though, he’s certainly not going to say anything negative.

Which makes you wonder what the buyer is getting that he couldn’t have found by opening the Yellow Pages. He’ll have to sit through a sales pitch that will explain why the seller’s product is better than everyone else’s but if the pitch is true and the buyer is smart, he’ll know that anyway.

At best, Salesconx makes sure that some sellers get the chance to offer their product to a buyer in the market. At worst though, it commoditizes relationships, leads to clients being pestered by salesmen and generates bad buying decisions prompted by unfounded recommendations.

And for sellers, it isn’t really necessary to offer cash for leads. Social networking has made it very easy for marketers — and small business owners — to find people who know people with money to burn.

There are really three options: MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s Bonds are Strong… and Free
While all of those sites can be used for professional networking, the most effective when it comes to driving sales is usually LinkedIn. MySpace tends to be young, and while Facebook has been heavily hyped as a multi-billion dollar commercial marketing hub, the results have been fairly disappointing. It’s hard to find a company that boasts about all the sales they’ve won by networking on Facebook — let alone advertising on it.

LinkedIn though was designed for professionals. Everyone on the site understands that everyone else is there to meet people, win jobs and make professional connections. They’re willing to help not for a cash fee but because they hope that someone else will do the same thing for them.

That sounds like recommendations are being offered for rewards that are even more valuable than the sort of commissions tossed around on Salesconx, but on LinkedIn buyers can trace back the connection to the referrer. That means that they can be reasonably certain that the referrer’s recommendations are grounded and they are more likely to trust the seller. As a way of selling, it’s a lot more powerful than bribing someone to give you a phone number.

It’s also a lot slower though, and that’s the downside. Networking on LinkedIn takes time and effort. You have to create a complete and enticing profile, one that mentions everything you’ve ever done and every place you’ve ever worked in the same way that a resume does. You also have to link up with just about everyone you’ve ever met. The more connections you have, the greater the chances of finding clients.

And you need to be active too.

That’s the stage that many people on LinkedIn neglect. They assume that it’s enough to show off their experience and wait for the offers to roll in. That’s a poor strategy even for job-seekers. To be successful on LinkedIn, you also have to join groups, work the networks and keep in touch with the people you connect to.

You have to schmooze as well as solicit help and most importantly, you have to identify the people in the network who enjoy acting as brokers and are keen to lend a hand.

It’s not as simple as paying for introductions, but it is a lot more valuable… and it’s a lot more likely to get results too.



One Comment

  1. Evan Sohn Says:

    Sabrina,

    Thanks for the coverage. One of the more interesting things we are seeing on Salesconx are sellers being more careful with who they introduce to their contacts then merely anyone who will pay them. In many instances they being diligent to make sure there is a fit prior to the introduction. Once there is money being exchanged people seem to feel more compelled to make sure the introduction is worthwhile on both sides.

    No different than a real estate broker making sure he/she is showing homes to the right buyers and making sure there could be a fit between the buyer and the seller. The broker wants to make sure it is a good introduction all around.

    Rather than looking at the possible negative possibilities of Salesconx (by the way LinkedIn is now getting spammers on their site) let's look at the positive - business are growing and driving real revenue through introductions/leads purchased using Salesconx. At the same time, sales people, who used to be at the heart of every business transaction are once again in the middle of these transactions.

    I love your blog so please keep it up!

    All the best,

    Evan Sohn
    CEO
    Salesconx

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