(MoneyWatch) It was Groucho Marx who sent the telegram, "Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member." I don't recommend being that snobbish, but it pays for sales people to aim above their station in selecting groups to join.
Here are my top ten ways to advance your sales success by attending events and membership groups where prospects congregate:
1. Be a joiner. To advance your sales contacts and build clientele, it's essential to take part in professional groups. Personal contacts made through these groups prove to be invaluable assets to both your career and your company or cause. So before you sign up, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and do some sleuthing.
2. Be a leader. Work toward becoming a leader of one or more clubs -- do that by joining the right committee. Do some homework before volunteering. Determine the chairpersons and members of various committees, and then join those comprised of people with whom you want to form relationships.
3. Seek status. Committees give you a chance to show off your stuff (not just swap business cards), plus an opportunity to get to know all of the members. Use your status as a group member to seek advice from key players inside and outside the organization.
4. Ask for cards. When you meet people, ask them for their business card. Next, ask them what types of people they would like you to refer to them. Finally, ask them for permission to include them on your email list. Advise them they can get off the list any time they want. You'll be amazed at how your database will grow.
5. Be better than Bill Clinton. The first Democratic president to be elected to two terms since FDR, Clinton told "The New York Times" that for most of his life, every evening before he turned in, he listed every contact he'd made that day and entered the names on 3 x 5 cards, with vital statistics, time and place of the meetings, and all other pertinent information duly noted. You have the advantage of easily affordable contact management software. Use it.
6. Think quality over quantity. In the words of motivational speaker and author Harvey Mackay, "Networking is not a numbers game. The idea is not to see how many people you can meet; the idea is to compile a list of people you can count on."
7. Be a loner. Strive to join groups in which you are one of the few representatives from your profession or corporate rank, rather than organizations comprised solely of professional colleagues.
8. Be convinced. Let someone convince you to join the group. Use him or her as an ally to become a leader of the group, but avoid assignments that require maximum work with minimum reward.
9. Show up early. It is more important to attend the social hour than the meeting itself. Not because of the drinks and munchies (which admittedly are usually better than the chicken and peas typically served), but for the conversations. You have my permission to leave before the speechifying begins.
10. Do your homework. Before joining a group, begin the process by forming a linkage with the key staff person. Joining the membership committee is a smart way to gain the favorable attention of the group's power structure. Seek out high-visibility assignments, such as ad hoc committees that report to the board of directors.
What do you do when there is no group to join? When you discover that an organization doesn't exist in an area where you want to form alliances, take advantage of a golden opportunity and form such a group.