I love this phrase from Porter Gale in her book of the same title. Networking is an essential
sales tool. Here are the best tips to keep in mind as you’re out there meeting new people who may be able to help you grow your business.
The first important thing to know is that you’re not at a networking event to sell. You are there to begin to develop relationships with the people you meet so that, as they get to know you, they will feel comfortable referring you to people in their network. You’ll never be able to meet everybody, so set a goal to have meaningful conversations with 2, 3 or 4 people per event.
When you meet new people ask how you can help them! Start with something like: “What is your business about?” or “How do you help other people/companies?” Then follow up with “Who is your ideal client?” or “How do you find/meet your ideal client?” Be genuinely curious about the person and his/her business and your questions will flow. Make sure that you ask before you tell! Then remember to follow-up on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Schedule a time to have coffee or lunch with those people you really connect with personally or feel you may be able to help or can help you.
It takes a lot of time and effort before you see a return on the energy you put out – so keep coming out to events. It can be as much as 6-12 months, but it’s a wonderful way to meet like-minded people in your community, some who may become your new friends! And don’t run away from potential competitors – turn them into potential referral partners! You may actually be more complementary to their business than competitive. And maybe they will need extra help as their business grows, or vice versa, and you’ll have each other to rely on.
A good friend of mine, referral selling expert Joanne Black from No More Cold Calling, once told me that a sales person should set a goal to attend one networking event each week. So make sure to put that in your sales plan for 2015.