Sales are frequently developed through the relationships we have
created with other people. Networking functions provide the opportunity
to expand our contact list, particularly when we create and nurture
quality relationships. It is not enough to visit a networking group,
talk to dozens of people and gather as many business cards possible.
However, every networking function has tremendous potential for new
business leads. Here are five strategies to make networking profitable:
1. Choose the right networking group or event.
The best results come from attending the appropriate networking events
for your particular industry.
This should include trade shows, conferences, and associations
dedicated to your type of business.
For example, if your target market is a Fortune 500 company, it does
not make sense to join a group whose primary membership consists of individual business owners.
You can also participate in groups where your potential clients meet.
A friend of mine helps people negotiate leases with their landlords.
He joined the local franchise association because most franchisors
lease their properties.
2. Focus on quality contacts versus quantity.
Most people have experienced the person who, while talking to you, keeps
his eyes roving around the room, seeking his next victim.
This individual is more interested in passing out and collecting business
cards than establishing a relationship.
My approach is to make between two and five new contacts at each
networking meeting I attend.
Focus on the quality of the connection and people will become much
more trusting of you.
3. Make a positive first impression
. You have EXACTLY one opportunity to make a great first impression.
Factors that influence this initial impact are your handshake,
facial expressions, eye contact, interest in the other person and your
overall attentiveness. Develop a great handshake, approach people with
a natural, genuine smile and make good eye contact.
Notice the colour of the other person’s eyes as you introduce yourself.
Listen carefully to their name. If you don’t hear them or understand exactly what
they say, ask them to repeat it. Many people do not speak clearly or loudly
enough and others are very nervous at networking events.
Make a powerful impression by asking them what they do before talking
about yourself or your business. As Stephen Covey states, “Seek first to
understand and then to be understood.”
Comment on their business, ask them to elaborate, or have them
explain something in more detail.
As they continue, make sure you listen intently to what they tell you.
Once you have demonstrated interest in someone else, they
will – in most cases – become more interested in you.
When that occurs, follow the step outline in the next point
Develop a ten second introduction as well as a thirty second presentation.
The introduction explains what you do and for whom
. For example; “I work with boutique retailers to help them increase
their sales and profits.”
This introduction should encourage the other person to ask for more
When they do, you recite your thirty second presentation.
“Bob Smith of High Profile Clothing wanted a program that would
help his sales managers increase their sales.
After working with them for six months we achieved a 21.5 percent
increase in sales.
Plus, sales of their premium line of ties have doubled in this time frame.”
As you can see, this gives an example of your work and the typical
results you have help your clients achieve.
Each of these introductions needs to be well-rehearsed so you can recite
them at any time and under any circumstance. You must be genuine, authentic,
and as I recently heard a speaker say, “bone-dry honest.”
5. Follow up after the event. In my experience, most people drop
the ball here. Yet the follow-up is the most important aspect of networking. T
here are two specific strategies to follow:
First, immediately after the event – typically the next day – you should
send a handwritten card to the people you met.
Mention something from your conversation and express your interest
to keep in contact.
Always include a business card in your correspondence.
Next, within two weeks, contact that person and arrange to meet
for coffee or lunch. This will give you the opportunity to learn
more about their business, the challenges they face, and how you could
potentially help them.
This is NOT a sales call – it is a relationship building meeting.
Networking does produce results.
The more people know about you and your business, and the more they
trust you, the greater the likelihood they will either work with you or
refer someone else to you.
Kelley Robertson, President of the Robertson Training Group,
works with businesses to help them drive sales, increase
profits and motivate their employees. Kelley is the author of “Stop,
Ask & Listen – How to welcome your customers and increase your sales.”
He can be reached at Kelley@RobertsonTrainingGroup.com or at 905-633-7750