(The following is a summary of the key points from the PBA Cornerstones seminar on Jan 10th. Jeff Schneider, Bill Dolan and myself were presenters)
Networking should be an important component of your sales prospecting plan. Most business people get involved in networking at some point or another but very few are strategic about it. I suppose networking is seen as a low risk, and fun activity. On the other hand, how many times have you returned from an event with very little to show for it? Instead, create a plan, set goals and track how well you do.
Here are some points to consider:
- Just as the lions in the African plain hang out around the watering holes for their lunch to come for a drink, find out where your ideal customers gather. Which organizations do they belong to?
- Balance out how deep vs how broad you network. For example, leads groups (e.g. BNI, Take-The-Lead, Le Tip, etc) tend to go deep but with fewer people. Chambers tend to be broad. You probably need both but be careful spreading yourself too thin.
- Be strategic about what you tell people about your company. Tell them less than they want to hear! No one wants to listen to a bore who doesn’t know when to give it a rest. Talk about the types of clients you help and what pain you help to remove. Hone your elevator speech and consider offering something of value for free.
- Be reciprocal. This is really important. When it comes to networking, be prepared to give and you’ll find that what goes around comes around. Take an interest in the people you are talking to and look for ways to help them.
- Go with a friend. When you go with someone else networking is less intimidating and it can help you build a better relationship with your colleague. But be careful to set expectations about mixing with other people or you will end up just talking to each other.
If you want more networking information take a look at Kathie Nelson’s website. Kathie is the Queen of networking in the Portland area.