A change of job has meant that I have needed to build a new network of friends, or should I say add to my existing networks. Note the use of the word 'friends'. I'm not out to get Facebook likes, twitter followers etc, I'm actually out to make friends. Maybe it is more like online dating! Okay, even I admit that sounds a bit stalkerish.

The fact is, when you are in a sales role you need to have a network of good friends. That is typically where your sales leads and referrals are going to come from. If you don't have a lot of friends in the area that you are trying to sell into, then you're going to need to get out there and make some.

Here are three simple things that I do to build new friendships online:

1. Identify those who are influential online
A simple search of people with 'payroll' (the skilled people I can help) in their LinkedIn profile reveals more than meets the eye. There is a lot of information that can lead you to finding the influencers. By looking for the groups that people belong to, it is easy to see which groups are popular. Just take a look in the groups and see who the most active people are.

2. Connect with the influential
Once you have found a few of the influencers, now is the time to make a connection. Whatever you do, don't start asking to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook. It's far too early for that malarkey! Where are your social skills? Find an opportunity for them to become aware of you, a good place to start would be to respond to a comment they have made in a LinkedIn group. Remember you need to start adding value at this point in the game.

3. Engage
Find ways to engage online. A lot of influential people will be active on more than one Social Media site. They might have a blog or even a youtube channel. I monitor these people on twitter a lot. Twitter is a good place to be able to participate in a conversation. 

Once you have been connecting for a while, you need to work out a way to meet with these people in real life. I often do this by offering to meet for a coffee, in some cases I join events that have been promoted by the people I have now built a network with.

So, at which point of this process do I do the hard sell? The answer is, I don't! Sales is never about selling anything, it's about helping people. It's about helping a friend with a problem. The more friends you have, the more people you can help.