Networking should be viewed as more than just a cold sales call. It should be viewed as; how can I build a relationship with the person I am meeting. Think of it this way, on your first date, do you ask the person across from you to marry you? Well in a sense asking for the sale on the first call is the same thing. Networking events should be viewed as the first step in building the relationship.
Many people go to these networking events with the belief that they must meet as many people as possible. First start with a plan of who your ideal client would be. Once you know who this is, you can look around the room and see who may fit. You have narrowed your list of potential people to meet and that is fine. I would rather meet 4 solid people that I can help, than 20 people that I know I could not possibly follow up with or be of service to. When you network you need to ask yourself how much time do you have to follow up with your prospective leads. If you know you only have an hour a week, then meeting 50 people is not a good idea. Better to just meet and follow up with 10 people.
When you meet someone for the first time there are a few important things to remember. Every one talks about having an “infomercial”. This is a great ice breaker, but should not be longer than 60 seconds.
One is for when you meet someone and you two are having a conversation. What you are trying to do is entice the person in to a second meeting, again building the relationship. You are not trying to close the deal right then and there. You can relax, there is time later to get into the real working of your business and what you have to offer. If possible, let the other person talk first. The common mistake people make is talking about themselves the whole time. Yes, we all like to hear ourselves speak, and we think there is no one more important than ourselves. This turns potential clients off. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening to others and clarifying what they want first will earn you more colleagues. Another good thing about talking second, you can now tailor your infomercial to fit their needs. Ask open ended questions to get a conversation going. You can pepper in lines about who you are and what you do without monopolizing the conversation. Give them your name, a few lines about what you do, services you offer, perhaps how you are unique or different form other companies. Make sure when you are talking that you are clear and precise as to what you offer. You don’t want people walking away, asking themselves exactly what did that person do.
If you are shy. You can ask them how you can help them, offer to introduce them to someone you know. You can see if you have common interests or clients with this person? You are both at the same event, make that your common ground. Remember just talk to them, don’t try and propose right out of the gate.
Once you feel you are having a good talk, ask to set up a lunch or coffee date for a later time. At this next meeting is where you can go in to more details about what you do and how you can work together. Business has turned more to the personal side, people want to know that you think of them more as a person than as a potential referral. A great thing to do at your next meeting if possible is to bring some potential work for your new friend. You don’t want to bring a fake lead, only bring true connections. People would rather receive 1 good lead than half a dozen names of people who have no idea why you are calling on them.
Before you walk away from your new friend, offer them two business cards. As you are doing this remember to say, “ Here are two cards for you, one is for you to keep, and the other is for you to give to your friend who may need my services”. This will get them started thinking about who they know that might need what you have to offer. It also helps to have 2 cards, in case they give one away, they still have another to call you with to get more. Don’t forget to ask them for two as well. I will often put my business cards in every suit coat (the dry cleaner will usually put them in a small bag for you), coat, or purse I have. This way no matter where I am, I can grab a couple out of my purse and hand them out.
If the idea of networking still scares you, give me a call and we can sit down and work on your infomercial and practice how you are going to deliver it, and follow up with all the leads you will be receiving. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org