What can you do to improve your networking skills when going to events and meetings?
Determining your target market before you even start networking is the most important thing to remember. If you are mingling with the incorrect target market or attending events that do not pertain to your industry, you will never generate the correct sales leads for your product or service.
Who do you want to meet?
Determine the top five people you want to meet at the particular networking opportunity. Decide beforehand why you want to meet these particular people. What will you be able to provide them when meeting? Also, what value will they bring to your business? The meeting needs to be of value to both of you.
How will you meet them?
Making a list of the people you want to meet is only the beginning. You need to know where you will be able to find them. Do they frequent certain types of events or meetings? Do they even attend the events that you attend? If you do not have access to certain events, make connections with people who can provide you this access.
And, do not simply focus on formal events such as conferences. Take a look at breakfast events, luncheons and cocktail hours. Even if you do not drink, you can simply go to these places for a while so that can make yourself visible and get introduced. And you do not always have to go for the obvious, straightforward route. The decision-makers have individuals around them that can give you a greater opportunity to get introduced.
There is even a more roundabout route to follow and that is partnering up with competitors that have been in the business for longer than you have. They may know people that you do not have access to. And even if they are in business with your competitors, there is always the possibility that they will notice the value you can provide or introduce you to other people who will want your product or service.
They always say that first impressions last so make sure that you prepare yours ahead of time. Don’t go to each person with a standard pitch. When people are at an event, they may have had people pitching to them all day and won’t want to have the same experience at an after-hours meeting. Rather think about what would be of value to them, what is important to them in their business or what will make their lives better when they leave the event.
Don’t just sell
Certain individuals, because of their involvement in a particular position, may be bombarded on a daily basis by people trying to sell them products or services. This may become a point of contention for them when meeting people at events. Make yourself stand out by sparking up a conversation that is not related to business dealings. Talk to them about their hobbies, their after-work activities or their families. This will help you build a long-term relationship that focuses on trust. If you show an interest in the person they will more likely be willing to give your product a try and recommend you to their friends in the business.
Follow up with your contacts
Just because you have someone’s contact information, does not give you opportunity to slack. They need to know that you have the ability to invest time in them which will make them feel wanted and appreciated. Keep a personal touch when it comes to dealing with clients, no matter how you meet them or what your goal is with engaging with them.
Following up can involve something as simple as sending an email asking how business is going. Or if you get an extra invitation to an event you think they would be interested in, ask if they would be interested in joining you. They will be pleased to be able to attend a valuable event and this will give you even more time with them to discuss business prospects.
Also, don’t wait too long before following up with someone. Don’t let more than a week go by before contacting them again. This way their memory will still be fresh and they will more likely to remember you in the long-run. If you did discuss some business, schedule a meeting or have a quick phone call with them to see where their interests really lie. You can even send through industry news that you think they would like to see.