May 29, 2013

In my recent blog post about how to quickly prospect without cold calling, my first tip was to find an immediate networking event to go to. I want to expand upon that with this follow up post, as this is one of the very best ways to drum up business.

Every salesperson should become expert in the nuances of this lead-generating and relationship-building tool, which is a lot more fun than cold calling and generally has a better contact-to-appointment ratio.

Here are some tips on how to network effectively. For some of you, these might be things you “already know.” But are you using them on a regular basis?

Look good, smell good, and great people properly.

Give yourself the best chance of getting to speak with someone important at a networking event by being well dressed and well groomed.

  • If you are going to an event straight from work, take the time to freshen up in the rest room by brushing your teeth, combing or brushing your hair, and touching up makeup as applicable.
  • Consider changing your clothing, or at least your shirt or skirt if it has become very wrinkled by sitting down in your office chair or car all day.
  • Learn how to deliver a proper handshake. People will judge you by your handshake and how you make eye contact. Shifty-eyed people with limp handshakes don’t make good impressions, and neither do those who squeeze hands with a vise-like grip while staring the other person down.

Your goal is to provide something of value to at least one other person.

You go to networking functions to get business, of course — but so does everyone else. Who do you think is appreciated more, and thus has a better chance of getting a future sales appointment:

  • Joe, who passes out his business card and delivers an elevator pitch to everyone in reach?
  • Cindy, who asks a person to tell her about their business, and then offers a referral to someone else in the room, or even to one of her existing clients?

I bet Cindy could leave the networking meeting without giving the person she helped a business card or telling them who she works for, but she could still call in a week and have the prospect remember her and give her an appointment.

I don’t recommend salespeople be this passive, but they could be and still make a living if they really connect with the people they meet.

The Number One most important thing to remember in networking is…

…that you must follow up with everyone you talked to, or you are just wasting your time. Those identities you have collected (business cards) are sales gold.

  • If the prospect was warm, send them an email or place a phone call within 24-48 hours of meeting them, asking them for an appointment to continue the conversation.
  • For everyone else, send a handwritten note. Very few people send handwritten notes any more — you will stand out. As recommended in an article in Entrepreneur, try to reference something they mentioned when you spoke with them at the networking event, such as a personal anecdote.
  • Add everyone to your CRM, and execute an appropriate campaign. This could be a drip campaign for cold prospects, a referrer program, an invitation to opt-in to a newsletter, and more.
  • Engage with the people you have met in their business social media channels.

Now get out there and meet some new people this week!