The number one knock I hear on networking as a sales activity is it doesn’t result in new business. For many salespeople, this is true. It is not because networking doesn’t work, but because the salesperson doesn’t network the right way.
Most salespeople don’t network enough, the ones that do typically approach it from a “show up and see what happens” approach. This often results in limited interaction with the right people, periods of not having anyone to talk to or butting into existing conversations, and ultimately frustration. The rep then blames the event or organization for being “cliquish”, unfriendly, or just plain wrong. After one or two attempts, most salespeople just give up.
This is where an opportunity lies! That same organization that other salespeople have dismissed could be a gold mine for you if you network right. Here are four ways to get the most out of a networking opportunity, increasing your sales.
1. Get involved, really involved.
Only about 3-5% of any organization volunteers for something. Volunteering is the quickest and most effective way to get entrenched in an organization, meet the right people, build credibility, and get new sales. Ask the director or a board member how you can get involved in the organization. Working the registration table, organizing networking events, serving on committees, and joining the board are your best bets.
2. Arrive early at events.
An after-hours starts at 6 pm – Many arrive fashionably late, 6:30. The problem is that if you are new to the organization, it is tough to strike up conversations at that time. Everyone is already in conversations, and they all look like they know each other. So, you take a couple of laps around the room, grab a drink, and hope you find someone else that isn’t talking to anyone. Instead, show up 10 minutes early. Meet the director, other volunteers, and many times those initial conversations can carry you through the entire event.
3. Fight the urge to sell.
Most people go to networking events to find new business, are looking for a new job, or are just there socially. I’ve yet to meet anyone that goes to a networking event to be sold too. Yet that’s the approach for many salespeople, and it’s a big turnoff. Instead of trying to sell people focus on why they are there and how you can help them. Build relationships and credibility first, and then the sales will come.
4. Find the influencers.
Every organization has them, the people that know everyone. Those are the people that you need to get to know very well. They can open doors for you, be a consistent referral source, be an advocate for you in and out of the organization, and typically are just great people. Introduce yourself, find some things in common, and then ask to meet for coffee or lunch some time.
Networking takes planning, effort, and patience for it to pay off. But if you do it the right way, do it enough, and stick with it, networking can be by far your most lucrative source of new business.