Over the last ten years I’ve attended over 1000 networking events, including over 100 in 2018 alone. I’ve also had the chance to work with hundreds of individual business owners, as well as some very big companies, to help either them or their teams sell more from their networking.
I absolutely believe that networking should be an important part of any businesses marketing mix. I also believe that there are some simple changes most business owners could make to their networking efforts, which would make a massive difference to the sales they win in return for their efforts.
As we head into the new year, here are seven simple changes which I hope you will incorporate into your networking – if you do, your results will also improve.
1 – Plan your networking. Make networking an important part of your diary and not something you only do if you’ve got nothing else to do. Planning helps you to make the best use of your time, by planning in advance who you want to talk to at that event, what else you’re going to do whilst you’re in the area and who you can let know on social media that you’re going to be there. As a bonus tip, when you’re planning, allow extra time at the beginning and end of each networking meeting for impromptu one to one conversations whilst you’re there.
2 – Make networking a regular activity – don’t just turn up when you want to sell something. Networking doesn’t need to be a long game, it is possible to make sales in the early days, but equally your results will be exponential. The longer you stick at it, the more regularly you show up, the more you immerse yourself in becoming part of your networking group’s community, the more likely you are to build that vital trust – so that people are comfortable to do business with you, or refer business to you.
3 – Plan your networking introduction. If you’re attending events where you need to do a 40 or 60 second introduction then don’t just wing it. You wouldn’t wing any other important part of your marketing, and your introduction is important. Your introduction is what lets other people know why they should have a 121 with you, or why and who they should refer to you. Spend time getting it right and, if you’re at all nervous, rehearsing it.
4 – Have a system to help you follow up. So many networking sales are lost just because people get busy and forget to buy from you. It is your job to remind people that you exist and not their job to remember you. So many people have no system in place for those business cards they collect. Get yourself a system, whether it is a CRM or paper system and then act on it. The quicker you follow up, the fresher you are in people’s minds, the easier it is to keep the conversation going. Every big opportunity starts with a little conversation, make sure you take responsibility for keeping those conversations going. The Networking Retreat is sponsored by SalesRadar and you can get a seven day free trial right here – https://secure.salesradar.io/register/user?ref=stefanthomas
5 – Show up in between meetings. Are you visible on social media? That’s where people hang out in between networking meetings. Social media gives us an unprecedented opportunity to keep in touch with our networking contacts at scale. And the real opportunity is that most people won’t bother. The more you’re visible, the more you’re in touch with your contacts, the more you immerse yourself in those relationships, the more opportunity people have to get to know, like and trust you. Immersion beats time. Someone who shows up to a networking meeting every fortnight and is regularly in touch with the other members in between meetings is building their trust far quicker than someone who simply turns up every fortnight. They are also spotting the opportunities which pop up in between meetings.
6 – Be open to the buying signals. The saying goes something like “when opportunity comes knocking, for God’s sake answer the door”. When someone talks about buying your services online, or makes it obvious that they are getting ready to buy from you, then make sure you take some action. Ideally move the conversation to the ‘phone or face to face as quickly as possible. I spot so many people who respond to buying signals with “here’s my Email address”, leaving the buyer with the responsibility for moving the conversation forward. Take responsibility, take action.
7 – Learn to close sales. If your business is to be successful, you need people to place orders. You will, I promise, get more orders if you get good at asking for them, You don’t have to become a super salesperson, but just work on how you can move the conversation onto actually confirming the order, in your own words, and in a way you feel comfortable and confident with. I believe completely in what I sell, and have no problem now recommending to people that they go ahead if and only if I believe it is the right thing for them, and that I will deliver value.
There is, of course, more to it than these seven points. But I know from the conversations I have throughout the year, that this lot will make a difference to most people.
Most of all, enjoy your networking, make a plan to make it work for you in 2018, and I really hope to see you out there on the circuit.
PS – spookily I teach all of the above at The Networking Retreat. If you fancy joining us in 2019, and spending 48 hours which could help you make five times more sales, you can book in at http://thenetworkingretreat.co.uk/