Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on October 11, 2023
40 Networking Statistics for Salespeople
What is Networking?
Effectiveness of Networking
Where to Network?
How to Maintain a Network
Networking: love it or hate it, it’s an integral part of the business world. And for salespeople in particular, networking can be an excellent way to find and nurture new leads with the hopes of making a sale. But how exactly should you go about networking? What are the best strategies to network?
Plenty of people run their mouths with unsubstantiated claims about the most effective networking practices. But, after hearing all the talk, it’s not easy to know what to believe. For this reason, we’ve taken a look at the hard statistics so that we can provide facts to back up what we say –all to help guide you on the road to networking success.
For salespeople, networking is the process of building, maintaining, and leveraging relationships to uncover either sales or professional opportunities.
Both in-person and virtual networking through social media have proven effective in developing relationships, albeit with a trade-off of depth versus number of connections.
Post COVID-19, business travel has been slow to recover. Travel costs remain high, so though businesses are eager to return to live events, pricing could be a barrier to international networking.
Two ways to improve your image when networking are to present a high-quality business card (physical or digital) and to mind your body language.
Though businesspeople are familiar with developing a network, many struggle with maintaining it over time.
What is Networking?
First, a brief explanation of networking.
Networking involves building, maintaining, and leveraging relationships that could turn up new leads (sales networking) or advance your career (professional networking).
For salespeople looking to make it big, both types of networking are important for uncovering new opportunities. Usually, you’ll want to network with people who match your ideal customer profile for sales networking or who work in a similar or related industry as you for professional networking. By having an ear out in the right circles, word might make it back to you of a buyer looking for exactly your type of product, or a business looking to hire a hardworking, skilled salesperson, just like you.
This sounds great in theory, but is there any evidence to support networking’s effectiveness? How exactly do you build and maintain a network? These 40 networking statistics below will conclusively answer those questions and more.
Effectiveness of Networking
First off, why should you focus your time and efforts on networking? Networking is near-universally recognized as an effective method of finding, building, and maintaining relationships with new leads, leading to increased sales.
That means that if your business is currently in a rut trying to find new customers through traditional marketing methods, networking could be a new avenue to success.
In a study of 2,300 people, 79% said that in-person meetings are the most effective way to meet new clients to sell business. Eighty-nine percent (89%) agreed that face-to-face meetings are essential for “sealing the deal.” Virtually all participants (95%) said that face-to-face meetings are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships.
When networking, salespeople have the option of meeting people either in person or online.
The most common places to network in person are at parties, events, conferences, and trade shows, with other places such as bars, restaurants, gyms, airplanes, and commutes showing a surprising prevalence. In other words, while you can network in person at all the expected places, every place you go to in your daily life can offer a chance to network in person.
On the other hand, online networking is growing in popularity. This is because online networking events are more affordable and accessible.
The most common places small business owners network at are online (70%), parties and social events (51%), online conferences (49%), and local conferences (40%).
When considering in-person networking, sales organizations additionally have the option to send their salespeople on business trips to either domestic or international events. Though business travel for live sales networking events could grow your revenue by more than twelvefold, travel faces considerable challenges, such as increased prices, sustainability goals, and travel restrictions.
As the cost of travel increases, it would be wise for sales organizations to focus on sending only one or two salespeople to high-profile live events rather than wasting the budget chasing after every single networking event.
Every $1 invested in business travel yields $12.50 in incremental revenue.
Travel spending is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by late 2024 or early 2025. However, accounting for lost growth and inflation, this post-pandemic travel volume will likely be smaller than it was pre-pandemic.
The top five factors driving business travel growth are increased live-event attendance, easing travel restrictions, reopening the company’s own offices, larger travel budgets, and the reopening of client offices.
Now, how exactly do you make the most of your networking to increase sales? Though it’s true that networking can bring you a wealth of new customers, your networking strategy should differ depending on whether you’re looking specifically to increase revenue or widen your network.
If you’re looking simply to turn a profit when networking, it would be best to focus on existing connections and customers. However, if you’re thinking about expanding your network in the long term, hosting or attending a virtual event would put you in contact with more people. Regardless of your motives, it’d be best to do some research before networking so you don’t enter the conversation cold.
The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
On the other hand, salespeople can also network for the sake of advancing their career, such as by finding vacant job positions through their network. Though only a quarter of professionals actually network, a majority of job vacancies are filled through networking.
Beyond in-person job fairs, business networking groups, or other live networking events, B2B companies usually source their network connections (and future hires) through social media channels such as Linkedin, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter).
Over 70% of open job positions aren’t advertised on job websites.
Another way to make a strong impression on prospects and new connections is by giving them a business card. A tried and true networking classic, business cards have been proven to shift peoples’ perceptions of a salesperson and their business and increase sales. Some tips to improve your card’s quality are to use color and thicker paper.
However, due to paper waste concerns, some salespeople are switching to digital business cards using designated apps and QR codes. Not only are they much cheaper and easier to update, but they can be distributed through online events as well. If you’re looking to cut costs and make an eco-friendly impression in-person and online, a digital business card could be the way to go.
Sales increase by 2.5% for every 2000 business cards passed out.
Salespeople can also network online using social media channels, a process known as social selling. Because of its cost and time efficiency, salespeople who use social selling are more likely to reach their quotas as compared to traditional networkers.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that some of the most popular social media platforms aren’t necessarily the best places to network through. Instead, salespeople should turn to both popular-yet-professional sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to source leads and prospects.
Social sellers are 66% more likely to reach their quotas than those using traditional prospecting methods.
Though we’ve established networking as an important tool for both sales and professional development, less than half of business professionals say they maintain their network. To maintain the network you’ve built, it’s best to set a schedule for communicating and reconnecting with people in your network. If you plan to host a networking event to see several people at once, be sure to keep it small so you can focus on building a connection with each individual.
Only 48% of professionals say they keep in touch with their network, mostly due to lack of time.
As a salesperson, networking virtually or in person is a great way to discover new clients and business opportunities. As business travel for in-person networking is slow to recover from COVID-19 restrictions, consider networking in person at unexpected locations such as the gym or during your daily commute. Alternatively, you could network online to reach a greater audience.
Though you may not see results immediately, by strategically broadening and maintaining your professional network, you could turn up even the most elusive of leads or opportunities, and find success in places you’d never have considered before.
Should I network virtually or in person?
Ideally, you should use a combination of both. Online networking will help you meet a large number of people in a short period of time, but those connections will be fairly shallow to start. On the other hand, in-person networking takes more time and money investment, but results in a stronger impression. No matter how you meet someone, we recommend you keep up with them regularly online and infrequently in person to keep the connection strong.
Should I travel to network?
Prices for business travel to live events remains quite high as travel and hospitality suppliers are slow to rebound from COVID-19. Thus, we’d recommend against frequently traveling to live networking events. Until the travel industry improves, we’d recommend a sales organization stick to only a few live events per year, and to send only a few salespeople per trip to represent the company.
How do I make a strong impression on clients?
In person, some ways to make a strong impression are to give a firm handshake, present a high-quality business card, and to project a welcoming and attentive personality through body language. Though you can’t offer a handshake online, you could present a virtual business card for online networking events and turn on your camera to project body language all the same.
If you travel internationally for networking, be aware that different cultures have different standards for business etiquette, such as bowing in Asian countries instead of offering a handshake. Notably, Japanese etiquette requires you to distribute and receive business cards with both thumbs on top of the card, and damaging another person’s business card is seen as extremely disrespectful.