Having spent a lot of time and energy building up contacts, most sales agents guard their network as if it was a priceless jewel, and rightly so. But just how much information should you pass onto your principal if you want to protect your ‘capital’.

Is your network a bargaining chip?

The answer is yes. You come to your principal with an established network that is going to help sell their product or service. What you know and, more importantly, who you know may well affect the amount of commission you earn and the successfulness of your sales strategy. If you are going to convince a principal that you are worth your weight in commission then you will need to tell them what you bring to the party.

Often the reticence over divulging too much information comes from the time sales agents spent working in a company environment. The thinking goes something like this:

  • Those contacts are your bread and butter and you don’t want to be giving them away.
  • You wouldn’t like someone using your network and bypassing you.
  • You don’t quite trust your principal enough to tell him or her everything It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Sales people are used to competing.

It’s built into their DNA and it is often quite difficult to let that aspect of the career go. But sales agents are slightly different. They are not working in a sales room, they are self-employed and principals are not competitors but should be facilitators.

Changing Your Sales Head

Protecting leads may have been a good idea in the sales office but, now you are a free agent, being more open can offer greater benefits than you may think. Building a good relationship with your principal, based on trust, can help you develop your network further.

The difference is this: Your principal wants you to sell. They are not out to sell themselves. They can help you do that better if they know what your network is.

What about a Company Moving into a New Area?

Let’s say that an overseas company wants to explore new markets in the UK. They don’t want to commit to a full sales force yet and so hire a sales agent to see what they can do. Obviously they could then get their own sales people in and attempt to take over the network the agent had worked so hard to build up. There are legal safeguards but better to be working together developing the sales.

Of course that can happen. Yes, there may be a case to keep your network cards close to your chest, particularly in the beginning of a relationship. But how do you build trust and sell your case if you don’t talk about your network before working with a company or while building up sales?

Or let’s say there is more than one sales agent working for a company in your area. If the principal is friendlier with the ‘other guy’, might they not give them a few tips on your favourite buyers? Again, it’s possible. Or it may just be a hangover from the old days of sales offices and competitive alpha males and females.

In the end, you will have to make a value judgement about what is right to do.

But the problem may be more about how good you are as a sales agent and how confident you are in your own ability to sell. Now that you are self-employed and master of your own destiny, it might even pay to be a little more open about your contacts.

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