Make the most of networking events

By Tony Sanders

 

It’s a new year, and besides your goals to lose weight and save money, I’m sure growing your business and expanding your network is also on your list. As you plan to attend many of the great networking events around the state, keep in mind why you’re there. You’re not there to show off your flashy, freshly printed business cards from VistaPrint. You’re also not there to go on a soliloquy about great your business is. That said, here are five tips on how to make the most out of your next networking event:

1. Define your goal

What is your goal when attending a network event? Here’s a tip: If it’s to close a sale, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Of course your overall goal is to make a sale, but the chances of you meeting someone and signing a deal all in the same day are highly unlikely. Your goal should be to find one or two people who could benefit from the problem that you solve and start building a relationship with them.

2. Know what you’re looking for

Do you know who your ideal customer is? What about the problems they face on a day-to-day basis? Knowing what you are looking for in a prospect is extremely vital to your sales success. This will help shape who you talk to, what you say and even what type of questions you ask. If you know what you are looking for out of a prospect, you will know the perfect prospect when you speak to them. More importantly, you’ll know who to not waste your time with.

3. Be memorable

Almost everyone at networking events is playing from the same playbook. Smile, shake hands, pontificate about how great they are, say “We should get coffee some time,” exchange business cards and then move on. It’s the worst kind of speed dating for entrepreneurs. I want you to do the total opposite. Well, I still want you to smile and shake hands, but I don’t want you to talk about how great you are. No one will remember the person who did the same thing every other person did during an event. To be memorable you have to zig when everyone else zags. Instead of talking about how great you are, become curious about the other person. Ask them about their business and their entrepreneurial journey. Find out what types of problems they face and what keeps them up at night. At the end of the event, you’ll be remembered as the one person who actually cared about something other than themselves.

4. Listen more, talk less

Attending a networking event is not about you. You’ve heard it said before: “People don’t care about what you can do, only what you can do for them!” The great Zig Ziglar would say our prospects’ favorite radio station is WIIFM — “What’s In It For Me?” In order for you to make the most of your next networking event, you have to become skilled at asking questions and resisting the desire to want to talk about your own business. Even if someone asks you about your business, give them a short answer and immediately follow up with a question of your own. If you find yourself doing all the talking, I guarantee you’re doing it all wrong.

5. Always follow up

According to The Marketing Donut, 80 percent of all sales require five follow-up calls after the initial meeting. According to Scripted, 44 percent of salespeople give up after one follow-up. Are you getting the picture? Following up is extremely important for more reasons than I could write about in one article. However, here’s a major point that most salespeople and entrepreneurs miss: The sale isn’t going to close itself. Don’t just say, “We should get coffee some time” — actually do it! Follow up with every prospect you come in contact with. Your business and your bank account will thank you.

 

Tony Sanders has worked in sales or owned a business since he was 13 years old. He’s sold and consulted for Fortune 500 and 1000 companies as well as many small-business owners in the Indianapolis area. Tony shares his personal experiences and thoughts on business, sales and social media on his website TonyRSanders.com. He also provides one-on-one sales coaching and sales consulting in the Indianapolis area.