by Angie Weidel
Salespeople are often asked to participate in numerous prospecting activities that include group networking activities. It can be difficult to translate these types of events into actual dollars to prove return on investment. Contrarily, it can be super easy to get caught up in having that after- work drink with the small group of folks that you already know and are comfortable with at that event. Networking can be an effective way to capture business and increase your brand's awareness and should be a part of any salesperson's healthy behaviors. When attending such events, there are a few pointers to keep in mind that may help you to get you out of your comfort zone and land that next big meeting with a prospect.
First, define why are you attending the event. Is it an opportunity to simply bring awareness to your company brand? Or are you looking to introduce your products and services to a new audience? Realize that you are not likely to sell anything at a networking event. If this is your goal, then you will be disappointed and discouraged. Brainstorm on the many other reasons how networking can be effective and map out your strategy. Most often for me it is simply about making new connections, introducing myself to a new industry or geographical area, and scoping out my competition.
Second, whenever possible identify your target prospects either by industry, title, or even better, by name! Take every opportunity to find things in common and build a rapport, even if it's not a key decision-maker. You never know who might be able to walk you through a door! It also may be a good idea to get to know your competition. Developing a rapport with someone who competes with you gives you leverage for any future opportunity where either of you might need help. If you both have a genuine goodwill in the marketplace, then you both understand there is plenty of business to go around. It is naïve to believe that either of you can serve every client 100% of the time. You need allies within the same industry—sometimes these allies come in the form of respectable competitors. Networking events are a great way to establish relationships with your competition in a non-threatening, social way.
Third, make sure your elevator speech or 60 second speech is ready to give at a moment's notice. This will ensure that you can give anyone a quick idea of what you and your company offer without overwhelming them with facts and data which might be lost on a non-decision maker. If you are unfamiliar with what an elevator speech is or how to create one, connect with me on Linked In.
Fourth, find ways to be a servant within the event or organization. Look for ways to connect others to business opportunities without gain for yourself. I recently had an opportunity to connect two individuals I'd just met at an event which turned into discussions for a possible vendor relationship. Doing this allowed me to build credibility with BOTH parties and was well be remembered for my actions. After the introduction and subsequent conversation with one of the parties involved, I was able to ask AT THE NEXT EVENT if there was a need for the services I provide. I was told "possibly so," and that I should follow up with a phone call or email within the week. When I called to follow up, I was granted an audience to discuss opportunities and next steps. The gentlemen I met with was the president of the company and was pleased that I'd already demonstrated an ability to correctly assess his needs and assist him in finding a vendor at a noisy, networking event. Showing your value in multiple facets of their business life helps to build trust and rapport with your prospects.
Lastly, follow up, follow up, follow up! It makes no difference what you do at the event if you don't remind folks of what you offer and why you met them in the first place! It’s a great idea to take notes or send yourself quick email with reminders for the next day. Reference a previous conversation or share an article or idea with your contact that relates to something you discussed.
So, recap: Why are you going? Who are you going to see? Are you ready to present yourself succinctly? Are you looking for opportunities to serve others?