Effective networking is the best way to generate leads and improve sales. Follow these 12 easy steps and you will see an immediate improvement in results.
1. Set a quota for yourself
It is easy to find an excuse to not go to a networking event. To help with this, set a quota for yourself for networking events that you attend.
For example, set a rule that you must attend at least one (or two or three) networking events per week. Hold yourself accountable to this and if you do, you will be networking more than you would otherwise.
2. Be productive at networking events
Core to effective networking is trying to interact with as many people as possible while at a networking event. To help with that, follow these key rules:
- Get there early – don’t worry about being fashionably late. It is easier to meet people before the crowd shows up, and you can sometimes become the host.
- Minimize the time you spend talking to and sitting with people you already know.
- Only talk to each person for five minutes, ten at the most.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover when determining who to talk to.
3. Have a good elevator pitch
The question you will get asked most is “What do you do”. You know this is going to be asked, so have a good answer.
It can help to have an answer that is both easy to explain and understand. One option here is to say something that is more of a value statement. This would be a one-sentence statement that says how you help more so than mentioning what you sell. For example:
We help sales managers to improve the performance of every person on their team.
4. Make it about the other person
During your time talking with someone, make it as much about them as possible. In other words, keep the conversation focused on their world as much as you can. This will help you to seem friendlier, more interesting, and more fun to talk to.
It can be easy for them to send the conversation back toward you and when this happens, answer their questions and then try to get the light shining back on them to help with effective networking.
5. Ask good questions
The easiest way to make the conversation about the other person is to ask good questions. Here are some examples of good networking questions:
What do you do?
How long have you been doing that?
Is there something that motivated you to get into that type of work?
What do you like most about what you do?
What brought you to this event?
Have you found this to be a productive event for you?
Are there any other networking events that you recommend?
How can I help you to be successful?
What does a good prospect look like for you?
6. Listen to what they say
Listen closely to what the other person says for effective networking. This will not only help you to learn more about the other person to improve your ability to network with them, but it will also help you to build a better relationship.
7. Focus on the right goal
The biggest mistake that people make is trying to sell their product at a networking event. When people do this, they are not focusing on the right goal for effective networking.
By simply shifting from this and focusing on the right goal, you will immediately become a better networker. Here are two good goals to focus on instead of selling your product.
Establishing a referral partner: Instead of trying to get someone that you meet at a networking event to be a customer, try to focus on making them a referral partner for you. They likely have some sort of network of their own, and if they can get you some sort of exposure to all the people that they know, that could be more lucrative than trying to sell directly to them.
Selling a conversation: 5 to 10 minutes is most likely not enough time for you to fully sell your product or service. As a result, a better goal is to focus more on trying to sell the step of just having a conversation on another day.
8. Ask pre-qualifying questions
Before you try to sell someone on talking on another day, you should pre-qualify them just a bit. This is because your time is extremely valuable, and you do not want to spend your time meeting with someone on another day if it would not be productive in any way.
In order to determine that there is at least a slight chance for you to have something productive to discuss, you can ask some pre-qualifying questions to determine how well you fit together. Your questions could be designed to determine if there is a least a slight fit for the contact to either be a prospect or a referral partner.
If their answers help you to determine that there are not any synergies between you, you can then make the educated decision to pass on trying to schedule a conversation on another day.
9. Schedule the next step
If you do determine that there is a reason to talk with them in more detail, don’t hesitate to close the next step of scheduling a follow-up meeting. And don’t be afraid to do this quickly – you could do this after only talking with someone for a few minutes.
The last thing you want to do is get into some sort of deep conversation right there at a networking event. Not only does this not allow you to get the most out of your conversation with the other person, but it also wastes valuable time that you can spend meeting other new contacts.
Here is a good way to close for the next step and cut a conversation short in a polite and professional manner.
You know, I feel like there is a lot that we can talk about and I am not sure if this is the right place. What do you think about getting together on another day where we talk in more detail?
Actually, you are asking a lot of really good questions and I don’t know if this is the right place to get into all of the details. What do you think about scheduling some time to discuss all of this in more details?
You know, I would really like to learn more about what you do and see if there might be some way that I could help you. What do you think about getting together on another day where we can discuss more what you do and what you would like to improve?
10. Send a follow-up email
Regardless of what you discuss with the contacts that you meet, send each one a follow-up email. It can be a very general email mentioning that it was nice to meet them or you can tailor your message to reflect what was discussed. If you discussed meeting again, this is a good place to bring that up and try to schedule the next conversation.
11. Connect on social media
After you send your follow-up email, try to connect with the contact on social media. LinkedIn is ideal for connecting after meeting someone during business networking, but you may also want to consider Facebook and Twitter.
12. Add to your CRM and email marketing system
Add the contact to your CRM and email marketing systems. The CRM will help you to retain the information and schedule and track your future interactions.
Using some sort of software is key here as this will allow you to broadcast out to your network on an ongoing basis, and this will help you to stay fresh in your contacts’ minds so that they will think of you for either referrals or purchases.
Meeting people is an important piece to effective networking, but keeping in touch is just as important and email marketing software will help you to do that.