How To Master Network Sales Without Being Awkward

Mastering network sales is all about trust. When starting a new venture, it’s tough to get your first customers because you don’t have any credentials to help build trust.

People judge by historical performance, but with nothing to show in your portfolio or any sign of a track record, it’s really hard to make people trust you with their money.

Anyone who was struggling to find their first job without previous experience knows this pain.

What Is Network Sales?

Network sales is a sales methodology in which salespeople are encouraged to build leads by tapping into their personal and professional networks to find qualified leads through referrals. In this method, there are two types of people to look for:

  • Potential leads
  • Well-connected individuals who can introduce you to potential leads

Don’t confuse network sales with network marketing, which is another name for pyramid sales, where your commission depends on recruiting other people to sell for you. That’s a totally different beast.

Network Sales Is About Trust, So Start With People Who Already Trust You

It’s easiest to approach your nearest network to earn your first batch of customers — you don’t have to build trust with people who already trust you.

Yet, network sales often just seem… awkward. There a lot of questions that could trouble you:

  • Should I write to this guy I briefly met 3 months ago?
  • How should I approach my close network?
  • Am I being too pushy? Will I lose my friends if something goes wrong?

You don’t wanna be the wolf in this case…

I’ve been using network sales with a lot of success at the beginning of RightHello.

The beauty of it all? I still have friends I can go for a beer with, some of whom are my customers.

I wanted to share my answers for a few important questions I asked myself before starting network sales.

1. Who Should I Approach?

You should not bother people who have nothing to do with the business you are in. It’s a simple rule, but people often go through their whole network and just send the same one email to everyone. That’s super-awkward.

And it’s going to be perceived as spam. So don’t be that person.

Talk to everyone you know who is connected in some way to what you do. You don’t want to bother people that don’t even understand your company or can’t benefit from it somehow.

Just browse your social media lists and try to identify leads. There are two types of people to look for:

  • Could-be customers
  • Well-connected people who know other could-be customers

Depending on the size of your network it could be 10 or 100 people. The smaller your list is, the more personal you should get, as every one of them counts — in a matter of potential deals, feedback, and any other people they could introduce you to.

Think about it this way: if you can provide value and you don’t offer any to your buddies, you aren’t a good friend.

Imagine if Steve Jobs didn’t want to sell Steve Wozniak an iPod? Silly, isn’t it? Yet I still see many (even successful) founders who don’t want to approach their friends because they’re scared to cripple the relationship.

2. How Well Should I Know Someone Before Approaching Them?

Don’t overthink whether you know somebody well enough to approach them. If they’re a part of your social media network, they’re probably open to getting updates from you sometimes.

I’m talking from the perspective of an entrepreneur — every venture is a part of my life and my network totally understands that.

From my experience, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve met somebody once, or have known somebody since childhood. If they fit the ideal customer profile, it’s worth trying.

3. How Do I Talk To Them?

Network sales is a fairly straightforward process. You know you want them to become customers, but you still don’t know if your product or service will work for them.

The first step is getting honest feedback from your prospect — something that’s hard to get from someone you don’t know. What I always do here is ask for feedback with the intent to revisit them as a future customer.

There’s an overused line that people always add when asking for feedback:

“I’m not looking to sell anything, but since you have so much expertise in… blah blah blah.”

That’s bullshit. Sure, get feedback first, but don’t pretend you don’t want them to be your customer if you know you can add value. In my opinion, people see through that from miles away.

Here are two examples of emails I used to approach my network:

Could-Be Customers:

“Hey {{first_name}},

As you may know, I recently started my new venture – RightHello, a tool for building high quality leads. We are just about to release a private beta.

I think this is something you might find useful and I would like to show you what we have. Your feedback would be extremely valuable 🙂

Are you free to grab a coffee and talk it over this week?”

Well-Connected, Asking For An Intro:

“Hey {{first_name}},

As you may know, I recently started my new venture – RightHello, a tool for building high quality leads. We are just about to release a private beta.

I’m looking for early adopters to get first feedback – ideally people doing sales in IT. As you have a huge network I thought that you might know someone we could approach. I’d be in your debt if you could check your network for somebody to introduce me to :)”

There are a few things I think are important here:

4. How Do I Expand My Sales Network?

Gradually. Network sales works best for people who’ve already built a series of relationships in a field and then start selling, because they have built up trust. But you can build trust, particularly if you’re genuinely knowledgeable about the field you’re selling in, and you can provide value to people who need it.

Get out there and talk to people. Share information. Demonstrate expertise. Everyone likes to connect with someone who has something unique and useful to say that will help them in their business.

5. Will I Lose My Friends?

Old-time street wisdom tells us not to mix business with personal relations. It’s true that it could be awkward if things go bad, but you have a secret weapon to protect your relationships: honesty.

Don’t spread nonsense about how great your product or service is. You’re just getting started. Your company/product isn’t mature yet, and you have a right to be imperfect.

People from your network will be much more forgiving if you admit that you don’t have it all figured out. Time for hustling will come later.

Secondly, don’t make promises you can’t keep. In normal sales, if you don’t deliver, you only risk your business relationship.

In network sales, people will trust you for who you are, so you are risking your friendship. It could go really bad if you’re not honest. But if you are, there is a 99% chance you’ll be okay.

…As long as you’re honest.

One of my first customers was a very close friend. Even though we had our problems, honesty and openness maintained our business and personal relationship. He is still a customer, and we still have a beer from time to time.

6. How Do I Expand My Network?

Normally it’s impossible to get a referral from a lead, and it’s not easy to get one from a client. But when you are starting from scratch, it works totally different.

You are an entrepreneur and you are trying to change the world in some way. That’s a kinda romantic thing to do and people will want to help you.

At the start, you’re mostly looking for feedback. You don’t need to prove anything. You’re just asking for opinions. In the more mature stage, it’s impossible to use this leverage, so better do it now

Just ask everyone you talk with for a few introductions. If you get introductions, ask them for more introductions. Trust me, it works in 90% of cases.

7. Be Natural

Asking for help makes everyone feel awkward. But when people see your hard work supporters come naturally. I was surprised at how much help I got along the way “just because it’s cool.”

Be honest. Try to do your best. And always keep your promises. This way you approach your network without feeling bad about it — after all, it is a mutual favor.

Piotr Zaniewicz is the founder at

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