You’ve likely heard that networking can be a great way to generate low-cost leads for yourself and your company. For the price of a cocktail and the time it takes to work the event, you can come away with 5-10 new prospects, if you are networking the right way.
If you’re like many salespeople you’ve been to networking events and had some success. But are you having as much success as you can? Let’s take a look these six overlooked ways you can do to make networking a sure-fire way to fill your pipeline.
#1: Go to the right places
There are hundreds of places to network in your city, so how do you know where to go?
Let’s face it – most networking events are filled with salespeople trying to sell things to each other. Those events are a huge waste of your time unless the product or service you sell is used by salespeople.
The only place you should be networking is where your prospects are likely to be. Instead of going to a general business mixer, spend your time at an industry association event will be attended by people who would be great prospects for you.
If you only have a few hours per week to network, doesn’t it make sense to go where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck?
#2: Have a goal
If you’re heading out to a networking event, doesn’t it make sense to know what you want to accomplish there? After all, time is your most precious resource and as a salesperson, you can’t afford to waste any of it.
Before you set foot in an event, know exactly what you want to get done. Do you want to meet five new prospects or meet a particular person? Do you want to reconnect with three existing clients or meet the speaker?
Write your plan down on an index card and take it with you. As you accomplish your goals, check them off. Just looking at the card will remind you why you are there.
One technique that works very well if you are attending an association event is to get a list of members ahead of time. Most associations publish the list or will give it to you if you ask for it. Take a look at the list and write down the names of five to ten people you would like to meet in order of priority.
When you arrive at the event, ask the person at the check-in to point out the membership chair to you. That person knows everyone at the meeting. Introduce yourself to the membership chair and ask if s/he can introduce you to the first person on your list.
Once you meet the first person (make sure you make a positive impression and don’t pitch anything!), ask him/her if they know the next person on your list. Ask them to introduce you.
Repeat this process until you have checked off everyone on your list. Typically not all of them will be at the event but you can often meet 75% of your key prospects in just one meeting.
#3: Practice your positioning statement
Otherwise known as an elevator pitch, a positioning statement is your answer to “what do you do?”
It should be concise and interesting but not cheesy at all. A good positioning doesn’t tell people what your job title is, it tells them who your best prospects are and what you do for them.
For example, if you sell printing a positioning statement might be, “I work with marketing managers to make sure their prospective clients know how good they are.” Notice there is no mention of printing or sales in that sentence, but it does tell the listener whom they should introduce you to and why.
Practice your positioning statement at least 25 times before you go to an event. It should roll off your tongue easily and confidently.
#4: Sit down late
Most networking events have some sit-down component whether it is for a meal or a speaker. That means you should be strategic about where you sit.
Wait until most of the rest of the room has been seated before you take your seat. That way you’ll know who is at your table before you commit. There is nothing worse than being stuck at a table with competitors or boors.
While you’re networking you might even meet someone you’d like to sit next to, so keep your options open when you arrive at the event.
I once sat next to a world famous golfer at dinner because I waited to be seated and the only chair left was next to her.
#5: Eat first
If the event you are attending is a stand up event that involves eating and drinking, eat before you come to the event and forego the food.
It’s hard to make good connections and impress people when you are juggling a plate, glass, fork and business cards. Remember, you’re there to work, not eat so put your priorities in line.
Of course, if you eat on the way to event check to make sure you don’t have mustard on your tie or crumbs on your shirt. It’s a good idea to keep a spare shirt (and tie) in your car just in case you have a “snack-cident” before you arrive.
#6: Ignore your friends
Once you’ve been networking for a while, you’re likely to run into the same people at different events. It can be tempting to stop and chat with them on the way to meet someone new but resist the temptation. A quick, “let’s talk after the event,” should be sufficient to acknowledge them without slowing you down on your goals.
You can always stay after the event and catch up on their news after you’ve met the people you came to meet. Your friends may love you but they aren’t buying from you so they’ll have to wait until after the work is done to get attention.
Using these six tips can dramatically increase your networking success. If you need more networking help, you can download a free step-by-step audio training that guides you through preparation, getting into and out of conversations and follow up ideas for any networking event.