Networking Events – and how to use them to make sales
Helping people to make more sales from their interactions is what really floats my boat. Knowing that someone is achieving more because of a conversation they’ve had with me, whether on the ‘phone, in person, at a conference somewhere or online, makes me smile every single time.
In 2019, all of us face exactly the same challenge which every business which ever existed has faced – how to get the attention of the people who would buy from us, and how to keep that attention so that we are there, in the right place at the right time.
Now, my thing is networking and I know that so many people treat networking events as some sort of business delivery machine – turn up and people will buy from you. Sadly, life ain’t that simple. But networking events can be, and have been for me and my clients, an extraordinarily rich source of business, if you use them right.
Every big opportunity starts with a little conversation, and networking events are the start of those little conversations.
Where so many people go wrong is twofold – they try to treat the networking event as the whole of the conversation and/or they never put in the effort to continue the conversation once the networking event is over.
Here is how most people can make a huge difference to the results they get from networking:
Actively use the networking event – so many networkers just expect something to happen because they turned up. The event itself is just a platform, a set of opportunities presented over the bacon and eggs. Your mission is to work out how to use that networking event to your best advantage. Some things which can make a huge difference:
Arrive early and stay late. Use your time to have conversations with people. Someone has gone to all the trouble of assembling a load of business people for you to talk to, make the most of it, don’t rush in just before breakfast and rush out again after your last mouthful of scrambled egg (or whatever the hell that is they serve in some hotels labelled as scrambled egg).
Respect the platform. Different networking events have different cultures, different agendas and, crucially, different purposes for the sixty or forty second introduction. A one size fits all approach does not work in networking, any more than it does in any other marketing opportunity. Spend the time to learn about the networking event and prepare everything you need, including your introduction, well in advance.
The introduction is an opportunity to start a conversation. Now, if you tell me you’re just “winging it” and that’s working for you and you’re making a load of sales from your networking, then great, crack on. If on the other hand, like most people I work with, your introduction just isn’t “working” then adjust it with two things in mind. Firstly, everyone else is there for the sake of their business, so your 40 or 60 seconds needs to be communicated in language which will get them paying attention. Secondly, you should aim to intrigue so that the right people want to talk to you and find out more, not give them so much information that they’re either bored stiff or, worse, think they know enough about you and don’t need to find out more.
Have a plan to follow up afterwards. Some of those follow ups might be to book a further 121 with someone, other follow ups might just be a polite thank you for the time and conversation, and an invitation to keep in touch, some might even be in response to a specific request about your services. The fortune, as they say, is in the follow up. To be really blunt, people will forget you when you leave the networking event unless you actively take responsibility for keeping the conversation going. Make sure you have a plan to do so and a system to assist you. I use Capsule CRM to make sure I forget as little as possible. The real opportunity for us is that most people won’t bother, leaving those of us who do with an immediate competitive advantage.
Make it easy for people to buy from you, and to refer to you. Your efforts in making these two things simple will be rewarded over and over again. Remove the obstacles which prevent people buying from you and make absobloodylutely sure that people really understand what you do. That way you can make every potential opportunity as seamless as possible. The less friction, the less resistance, the less stupid barriers in the way of people buying from you, the more chance you have that they will. Look at how simple online retailers make it for us now, and if they don’t we vote with our feet and buy somewhere else. The same basic principle applies to us.
Getting these few things right can make such a massive difference. Making an impact at networking events is not about being the loudest or most confident person in the room. It isn’t about being wacky. Being noticed for the right reasons is where the real value is in networking events and getting the above bits and pieces right, as often as possible, will result in more sales.
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