Although I have never held a “sales” job, I have been selling my whole career. In fact, I wonder how many executives in the staffing industry are in the same boat: whatever their title, they sell each day.

It got me thinking: What do I do that has enabled me to sell successfully even though I don’t have a quota, a territory or a product? It came down to two things: confidence and contacts.

In the early ’90s, I worked for staffing industry giant Manpower in Phoenix. I started a technical branch without staff or customers but I had 10 years’ experience recruiting all types of people. I had the confidence, if not the formal skills, to fill a requirement. That knowledge was a source of power. I would approach customers who needed key skills, and felt really assured that I could help them with their issues.

One day, a manager at a major manufacturing client asked if I could find hundreds of rocket scientists. This confidence that stemmed from my knowledge helped me. I asked for an on-site office and the use of their employment applications to find referrals and to network from. We quickly set up shop and in three weeks I was putting 10 or more people to work every week. Within a year I had 100 percent of that client’s temporary staffing business in Phoenix and by the next year Manpower had become its largest MSP.

Who You Know

That experience showed that knowledge gave me power, and confidence, and that got me business. I had to leverage it, though, take chances and be comfortable with risk, but it was always within my power to make or break that deal. I also learned about the power of using my contacts.

In my current role at MBO Enterprise Solutions, I deal with many consultants. Having done some consulting myself, I immediately identify with them. They have the unique challenge of finding new work while already on projects. I like to say that consultants are building their planes while they fly them. How do these independent consultants find work without the help of a staffing firm, a recruiter or even the job boards? They leverage their contacts.

By the time you have developed any level of expertise, you have contacts. These are people you went to school with, worked with or for and people you have just done business with. In fact, I would venture to say you can make every person you meet a member of your network. I have always believed that you never meet anyone by coincidence; they are all part of your network to help you succeed. You may not know how they will help you when you meet them but if you enroll them in your network, one day you will know.

So like the professional consultant that MBO serves, you can build business by having a series of conversations with people in your network and in those discussions you create opportunities; look for names of influential people in your business, contacts at prospects and introductions to new contacts to enroll in your network. The more targeted the discussion, the greater the chance you will run across a valuable opportunity, but even the most random conversation can lead to a new business opportunity.

Touching Base

I leave you with a true story. Toward the end of 2011, I sent emails to some contacts in my network wishing them a prosperous 2012 and asking how their business was going. Each was personalized to some degree, but in general they were just opportunities to touch base. One of those contacts was a woman I hired and trained years ago who is now a senior talent acquisition manager for a large consulting firm. She got my email, looked up my company and called me. “Jay, you have to help me,” she exclaimed. “We were just acquired and my new company cannot use 1099 consultants. Isn’t that what your firm does?” Last week, we kicked off the implementation of a new account that promises to be a perfect client for us. The president of MBO asked me where I got the new customer. My reply? “It’s the power of my network.”