Networking these days goes beyond attending a Chamber event or Trade Show. Today’s businesses need to recognize that the marketing and sales process extends beyond attending networking events. The key is to not only connect with potential clients at events in your geographical area, but to reinforce and build a relationship with these same people on-line through Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and your own Blog.
Creating a strategy of what Business Events and Networking opportunities work best for your business is the first step to being an effective net-worker. Time is the most valuable resource you have as a business owner and to waste it will cost you money and potential sales. Consider if the people who attend the event are good prospects for your business or if there are better opportunities that put you in a room of potential key accounts. The second thing to consider is what is the right number of events per week for you as a business owner. This will vary depending on the type of business and the time you have to attend networking events which includes follow-up time with the new prospects you meet. If you are out every night and spend zero time with follow-up calls, one on one meetings with the people you meet and extending invites on Linkedin and Facebook and other on-line social media sites this time was not well spent. And, if you are someone who never ventures out of your office and you are not getting as many clients as you would like, then it is time to join a few groups in your area and get more involved.
So, after you have made a strategy for what networking events you wish to attend be sure to go with a positive attitude and a clear thought of what you wish to achieve for the time spent and wear a name badge with your company logo clearly displayed [have one made up and handy for all events]. If you can find out who will be attending ahead of time be sure to check out their company website so that when you connect with them you can make a great impression and possibly secure a follow-up meeting all within the same 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure you have your business cards handy and your smart phone ready with your calendar if the person happens to want to schedule a time right there. The key for the night is to connect and leave a positive impression on all those you meet. Do NOT revert to the “pushy salesperson” approach since that is the quickest way to watch people leave to go get a drink or visit the restroom, but allow the conversation to open opportunities for asking if they are on Linkedin or Facebook or if you can call them later in the week to go for coffee. Be sure to come to the event already fed because if your hands are occupied with food you will not be able to shake hands and give or take a business card. The time for eating is before or after the event, but standing near the food table does offer you a chance to connect with people since most people will go directly for food or coffee at these events. Look for the people in the room who attract others to them and find out who they are and when possible introduce yourself to them and see if they are a good potential client. These people are usually well respected and often influence others within the group so by securing their business you can quickly be recognized by others within that networking group as someone worth doing business with. Make them your target for future networking events, add them to your on-line social media accounts and this on-line networking application to keep your relationship with them current by reading their updated profiles and posting on-line to them daily.
Finally, following up with every key person you have met at the event…this is the most important part of why you attend networking groups. You want to change the contacts or prospects you have made to sales and that requires building the relationship and helping the people you meet know why your product or service would be the right fit for their business and asking for the sale!
All my best to your success! ~ Charlene