In today’s sales environment one of the most effective ways to connect with prospects is by first developing a relationship with them. The best way to do that is through networking and by getting favorable introductions.
“Everyone knows that,” you say. Yes, they do, but why do so many people have such a hard time doing it well or even doing it at all?
Over the last several months, I’ve been noticing more and more articles written on the topic of networking and I’d like to share my thoughts with you around how to be more effective with this time-proven practice.
I understand that many people are fearful about meeting and talking with people that they don’t know. By not overcoming this obstacle, you will miss many opportunities to connect with both potential prospects and even centers of influence.
So what are these fears and how do you overcome them? Here’s a short list.
You may have a fear of:
• Not knowing what to say and sounding foolish when you blurt something out
• Being rejected
• Sounding unprofessional
• Looking/sounding nervous
• Not knowing how to break away from a conversation (whether it’s working or not) to meet other people
Networking formula for success
As with any endeavor it’s important to be clear about what you want to accomplish and then be thoroughly prepared to execute your plan to achieve your goal. Follow these steps:
- Be clear – Know exactly what you want to accomplish as a result of attending that particular networking event. Is there someone from a specific industry or company that you want to meet? Is there a specific person you’d like to connect with? Are you looking to find one or two people who are easy to talk to and have a few things in common with you?
- Lead – It’s perfectly okay to take the initiative to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. If others are seated around the table, ask if that empty seat is taken and if it would be okay for you to sit down. Once seated, simply introduce yourself and use the “break the ice” questions in the next step.
- Break the ice – The best way to break the ice is to be prepared. Know what you are going to say and practice it prior to the event. Walk up to the person and introduce yourself by saying, “Hi, I’m Bob with XYZ company, it’s nice to meet you”. They will most likely mirror your words. Then be prepared to ask them some questions like:
• What brought you to this event?
• How did you find out about this event?
• How often to you attend this event?
• Have you attended this event before?
• What line of work are you in? How long have you been doing that?
• How did you get into that line of work?
• What does a perfect client for you look like?
After breaking the ice, if you’ve hit it off and you determine that this is someone you’d like to get to know better, say something like this: “John, I enjoyed meeting and speaking with you. Now’s not the best time or place, but would you have any objections to getting together over lunch or a cup of coffee over the next couple of weeks? I’d like to learn more about you and your business and I’d like to tell you more about my business and how I can help others.”Assuming they say yes, try to set the date and time right then. If you can’t do it then ask, “Would it be okay if I call you tomorrow morning at 8:15 (or whatever time you like) to set it up so this doesn’t become just another good idea that doesn’t get implemented?” Be sure to exchange business cards. Take a minute or two write down some key points from your conversation on the back of their card so that you can pick up the conversation from where you left off.
Assuming you didn’t hit it off or you (or they) decide it’s better to mingle with others, be gracious. Say something like, “I enjoyed meeting you, I don’t want to take up all of your time and we should probably meet some others who are here.” Or say, “I enjoyed speaking with you and if I can help you in any way, please call on me. Good luck today.”
- Employ active listening – Look people in the eye and act as though they are the only person in the room. React and respond to what they say, don’t just wait until they stop talking to give you a chance to jump in to say something about yourself or your business. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Ask how best you can help them. Usually, this approach will be reciprocated.
- Be a connector – Not everyone you meet will be a good contact for you. Try to keep track of who you met at the meeting and try to introduce them to others attending the event. By doing so, you will increase your exposure and be seen as someone who is good to know and keep in touch with.
Today, sales require developing positive relationships first and talking business second. The “know, like and trust” mantra of many networking groups is now the new normal.
Best wishes on honing your networking skills and feeling more and more comfortable during networking events.
• Have some good networking tips of your own to share? Or advice on what type of networking events you find are most productive? Please visit this new thread: Tips for Better Networking
Robert A. Arzt, CLU, ChFC, LLIF, is CEO of Polaris One and InsuranceCoachu.com. He coaches professionals who want to achieve more. Contact him at 510-671-6226, [email protected] or through his website at www.insurancecoachu.com. For a complimentary coaching session, mention this article.