Whenever I go to a networking event, I’m always reminded of what not to do. There’s always someone (or several someone’s) who think their purpose in being there is to hand their business card to everyone they meet and sell their wares. These people don’t get it. They’re continually forcing their business into the conversation, slipping in pieces and parts of a sales pitch, trying to make a sale.
I’m not saying you won’t ever win a new client or make a sale at a networking event. In some cases, you will. I’m just saying it won’t happen as often as you would like. The reality is that few people go to a networking event looking to buy something and they certainly didn’t go there to be sold to by you or anyone else.
So, don’t go to networking events with the intention of selling to people in the room. And don’t go events in the hope of collecting business cards from people just so you can sell to them later on in your follow up emails, newsletters, etc. That’s not how business networking works!
The idea is to start a conversation that can be continued at a later date. That initial encounter should be just about discovering common ground, building rapport and creating an interest in taking the conversation further. How? Ask about them — who they are, why are they there and what they’re looking to achieve at the event. Then think about how you can help them, what connections can you make for them, what useful information can you share, what favors might you offer, who can you introduce them to. And then act on it. This way you’ll find people are more responsive and interested in you.
Hold back from telling people about your business. Inevitably, people will eventually start asking you questions and that’s where you can talk about your product, your service, your expertise, what you’re looking for or whatever is important to you. Then your goal is to develop relationships with those good connections you make by following up and staying in touch with them. As you grow the relationship, by being helpful to them, you want to ensure that they know what your products/services/solutions are, what problems they solve for what type of people and the typical results you tend to achieve for your clients and customers. If you get the relationship right and your message is easily understood, they will start to refer you, recommend you and open doors for you. And, if they are seeking the solution you’re selling, they’ll buy from you too.
As I have written previously, the real power of your connections is in who they know —there are many more opportunities there. My philosophy is that I’d rather you refer me 5, 6, 7 or more times than buy from me once because your referrals will almost always pan out successfully and that will produce a lot more clients and business for me. And if you trust me enough to refer me to your colleagues and friends, who else would you turn to if you need the product/service I offer?
Grab a copy of my newly revised book “Making The Most Of Your Business Networking Conversations” to access practical tips and strategies for making networking and business events enjoyable and worthwhile.