Some people really enjoy getting out and meeting new friends, some feel that is a chore. But it is an activity that you need to master if you are going to make a success of your business. The good news is there are ways to make it easier, and maybe even fun!
First of all – before you attend a networking event: set some goals. How many people do you want to meet? What kind of people? Meaning maybe what role they play in the company they work with, maybe the kind of company they work with, or maybe the kind of problems their company has. Of course you can establish absolutely any criteria that works for you, you just have to have a good image of what you are looking for.
Having a detailed image of who you are looking for allows you to quickly decide if the person you are talking to is or is not the kind of person you want to establish a relationship with, and then you can take the appropriate action.
That action might be to get to know them better, or it may be to make a polite excuse and move on. Either way you then haven’t wasted your time.
Later in this post I’ll share a link that will take you to where you can learn all about networking, but for now just practise saying things like “I think I just saw someone arrive that I need to connect with – will you excuse me?” With a simple statement like that you are free to pursue someone that you actually do want to talk to. And note that it says “Need to connect with”, not that you already know them, so anyone can be the person you next speak to.
It’s great to catch up with old friends and talk shop, reminiscing about the old days. And you should acknowledge those you already know, and spend a little time reinforcing the relationship. You just have to remember that you are there to meet some new people, not to talk shop all night. If you have things to talk about then arrange a time for a coffee meeting, after all they should have goals to meet new people too.
Your goals can be directed at finding people who want to buy what you want to sell. You are looking for buyers but you are not necessarily trying to close the sale right here, right now. That is: if they initiate the part of the conversation that says they are ready to buy the of course you go along with that. What you don’t do is push that yourself. This is a time when you must think of the lifetime value of a customer – how much they will spend over time if they always buy from you. Your job at the networking event is to establish the connection in such a way that it makes them want to buy from only you. That will make you far more profit than closing a sale right here, right now but losing the relationship going forward.
You make them want to continue to business with you by getting to understand them and their perception of their problem, then educating them about how you and your product or service solves that problem better than your competitors. That doesn’t mean you say nasty things about your competitors, it means you demonstrate that you understand your customer – the person you are talking to – and that you demonstrate that you care about them getting the service they really deserve.
Yes, you talk about the good things that you do, and you then bring in the phrase “…and what this means for you is…” and you describe what they will experience as a result of your great service or fantastic product. The point here is that most buyers don’t really care much about your list of features, nor do they care a lot about the way most state benefits. They probably know what they want, so your list of features just gets you into the game, it doesn’t ‘win’ the game for you. If you don’t have the features they are thinking about then they cut the conversation short.
They don’t care much about the list of associated benefits either, because they know that “You say that to all the potential customers”. What they do care about is that you understood them when they described their specific problems and that you can help them fix them. That means that you have to talk form their perspective, using their terminology where possible, using their descriptions as examples, and educate them about your solution.
It doesn’t hurt to arrange a coffee meeting with them either so you can show them your presentation, bring some samples and start the actual sales process.
To succeed in business you need to regularly attend events where you can meet new buyers, have goals that help you at those events, minimise the time you spend with people that can’t help you, maximise the time you spend with those that can help, and demonstrate value to those who have problems that you can solve. And if at all possible arrange to meet them later!
This post is a quick introduction to business networking – I have consulted to a group that specializes in teaching the skills needed to succeed. If you want to know more just visit www.masterclassnetworking.com. You don’t have to say I sent you, just take a look and if it seems that what they offer is what you need then: problem solved.