Five simple tips to make connections that will drive your business forward
If you are a business owner, you have almost certainly attended a networking event. Maybe it was an organized workday event, a happy hour gathering or a formal networking group. Regardless of the venue, the room was most likely filled with salespeople.
Therein lies the challenge. If everyone is selling, who is buying? The answer: no one, or at least a very small percentage of your fellow participants.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to attain new clients at a networking event. However, the smart salesperson looks for the opportunities outside of the room. There may be one or two people standing nearby that need your product or service, but there are also dozens of attendees who have clients who need your product.
What does this mean? You should look for gatekeepers and connections, instead of buyers, at your event. Spend your time making contacts with people who can introduce you to clients, instead of simply looking for a sale within the room.
Here are some simple tips to help you sell:
Know your audience
Before you walk into the event, make sure you know who your ideal client is. Do your research beforehand. Come prepared with a list of specific companies you want to work with, know the industries you can best serve, and know what type of companies are selling to the same clients as you.
As in all aspects of life, people love to talk about themselves. Let them talk, and be sure to listen attentively and ask questions. When you find someone who may be a good connection — or even a potential customer — build rapport, share some ideas and ask more questions.
If they’re interested they will also engage with you, and that’s when you should share tidbits about you that are specifically relevant to their needs. Don’t go for the hard sell, but listen and ask questions and you’ll learn who that person is trying to meet so you can offer to make introductions.
Talk about your desired clients, not your product
Remember, these are salespeople. They are looking to sell, not to learn about you — they don’t care about what you do or how you do it. Try mentioning a type of industry or a specific company. This will allow your conversational partner the opportunity to tell you if they have a contact at that company, or if any of their clients are in the industry you mentioned.
Ask for a follow-up meeting
Now that you’ve established that you know buyers for what your new connection is selling, and you’ve learned that they have clients and contacts you want to meet, it’s time for action. Set up a meeting over coffee or lunch, and schedule it right now! Follow-up calls can get missed or ignored, so it’s best to set the meeting right away. Congratulations, you just got a step closer to attaining a new client!
Write yourself a reminder and move on
Shake that hand, reinforce the meeting time and date, and excuse yourself. Once you’ve moved on, take out their card and jot down notes on it. Who did they say they know? What industries do they deal with? Make any relevant notes that will help you ensure your follow-up meeting is a success.
Just as importantly, don’t monopolize their time. They are likely excited, or at least educated, about what you may have to offer. By stepping away you’ll be free to start this process again with a new individual, and the person you just met is likely to keep your interaction at the top of their mind while they talk to someone else. This could result in an introduction to another future partner before the event ends.
By using networking events to make connections, instead of looking for buyers, you should be able to set up multiple meetings in the weeks to come. If each of those meetings opens two or three doors for you, your time was much better spent than searching out a buyer in a room full of salespeople.
This article was written by our Director of Business Development, Greg Ezell.