Have you ever really thought about how to properly navigate networking events? Who you approach, how you do it, and when you do it?
In the world of sales, networking is important. I remember a time in my career where I attended at least three networking events a week. Sure, I was looking for a good referral partner, but deep down inside I think I was really hoping to meet a prospect. I am sure many of us in sales have felt the same way. I can tell you from experience though, out of a hundred events, I found maybe one opportunity.
The scenario is all too familiar. Think back for a second and recall a time you chose to attend a networking event. You may have scanned a list of attendees, brought a pen and pad to take notes and armed yourself with about one hundred business cards. I’ve done it plenty of times and yet, I wasn’t prepared in the least.
When I started observing people at a networking function I started finding it rather comical. Excited at the potential of meeting a prospect or referral partner, I see eyes dart around the room. Once a person is “floating” around alone, some people suddenly transform into Lions at the center of a lawless jungle. Ready to pounce on the unsuspecting Zebra with a smile and a handshake followed by the words “So, what do you do?”
After attending so many events I started questioning if any of this was actually working. It was then I realized that I needed to treat it like any other lead. The more targeted I made my activity, the better chance of producing a result. So to answer my question, yes, it could work, but first I needed to change my approach.
True networking began when I started with identifying my goals.
Navigate Networking Events with Goals:
Researching companies that have synergy with mine. I look for companies who sell a product or service that compliments mine. Once I have identified a potential fit, I write a list of questions I want to ask that person to see if we can work together towards a beneficial partnership.
Researching the types of business that will be attending. I stay within my target market. Time is important for both the professionals I seek to connect with and myself. The last thing I want to do is drop by a networking event where more than half of the attendees have nothing in common with me.
Selling myself, not my product. Networking is not a mass selling event. One sure fire to turn off someone is to do a sales presentation in the form of conversation. However, I do need to sell my value as a sales professional. I want new connections to want to partner with me towards successful selling.
Looking beyond events. We live in such a great digital age where we can mix our networking with activity online. Sites like www.fastpitchnetworking.com , www.ryze.com and of course www.linkedin.com are valuable online resources for connecting.
Since I changed my approach, I have made more meaningful connections and have started closing more referral-based business. It’s amazing what a little focus can do. What types of networking activities do you engage in? Is there a specific approach you use to see more results when networking? And most importantly, how do you navigate networking events?