When you ask people what ‘networking’ means to them, they often say it is about building relationships, getting to know like-minded people and so on. Whilst all this is true, you often come across people armed with a stack of business cards and an invisible ‘sales hat’ on instead of people wishing to engage at the human level. So how did we get here, and how do we get back to networking effectively?
Mr Sales Hat is a networker and runs a business. His mortgage payment is coming up, as are the kid’s swimming lesson fees and he needs to meet his monthly target. He is desperate and needs sales quickly. The easiest way, he thinks, to meet prospective customers is to attend some networking events. But in doing so, is Mr Sales Hat thinking of building relationships or generating sales prospects?
If you ever get into this pickle, it probably means there hasn’t been a consistent approach to building your lead generation pipeline. From a networking perspective, the last thing you want to do when you are desperate is to ‘sell’ at events. So next time you have someone pushing a business card at you; give them a virtual hug and the chance to build a meaningful connection.
Here are a few things I would do to get sales NOW:
• Call your existing customers and ask for referrals. Your existing client list is GOLD. A referral from a satisfied customer is so much easier to close than a cold contact.
• Check your diary from previous months, you are bound to come across people that you may have forgotten to call or follow up.
• The same goes for your drawer; I can guarantee you will find business cards that you haven’t filed away or you have been meaning to call.
In order to avoid getting into a desperate situation altogether, and to begin networking like a pro, here are some top tips I have learnt.
Define your objective
Is your objective to have fun, meet like-minded people, self-development, to develop new business contacts or build existing relationships? Having an objective will keep your mind focused, allowing you to maximise opportunities and ensure your conversations lead to more fruitful outcomes.
Identify your customers’ avatar
Recognising your ideal customer is one of the most important things you can do. If you haven’t done this already, feel free to reach me to brainstorm this with you! Categorise your customers if you have multiple products, and then detail what your ideal avatar looks like. Determine what they wear, what they eat, where they eat out, what they drive, what they read, what they watch, where they socialise. These factors will determine what they will need to see from you and as such will determine your personal branding.
This comes down to location and approach. First off, once you have identified your avatar and the type of events they attend, wouldn’t it make sense for you to be there?
For instance, if what you offer is suitable for established businesses, why attend networks for startups?
I often hear people say that networking doesn’t work for them, which tells me they either aren’t networking where they should be or just don’t know how to network. Which brings us to ‘approach’: do you introduce yourself in a professional manner and have an effective business pitch? Do you build an instant rapport and credibility? These things matter and you need to be congruent with your personal brand.
There are 16 areas of personal branding, which if paid attention to, will make an enormous difference. If you would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact me for a free report.
If you plan to attend one networking event every week or six events in a month, ensure that you keep to it. Some of the best networking concepts around the world such as BNI exist due to consistency.
This is easily the biggest area of downfall. We allow ourselves to get busy with our routines after attending an event. Focus on the reason you asked for someone’s details and exchanged business cards. There is also a good chance you said, “let’s keep in touch”; and no, that does not mean that you put them on your mailing list. A short follow-up email on the lines of, “It was great meeting you,” and asking if you can share additional information is a good way to go about it.
One of the best ways to build a relationship with someone you meet at a networking event is to offer referrals or introduce them to someone from your network they could benefit from. When building relationships, do what comes naturally to you. This is important, as ultimately, while they may or may not be your client, they may know someone else who could be your ideal client. I always say that I don’t have clients, but ambassadors. It is powerful!
Happy networking everyone!
by Zeeshan Pasha
Founder and CEO, Nifnex Success Academy
Image © 2017 Nifnex