Networking has two sides. It can initiate a lot of business. Yet, if you don’t have an effective strategy, it can waste a lot of time.
You can optimize your networking efforts by joining one of your clients (one who is thrilled with what you have done for him/her) at a networking event. You wouldn’t be with this client constantly at the event. You’d just be by his or her side for several warm introductions.
Once you’ve identified your potential “networking host” clients, your steps would look like this:
Ask your identified client if she will be your “networking host” at an event where she has contacts. Let her know that you’re only looking for four or five introductions.
Once your host accepts, ask if it would be helpful for the two of you to review what to say or do at the event. For example, you might say, “I’m not expecting you to hold my hand. All I’m looking for is introductions to individuals you know who would benefit from my help.” And then you can review some of the language she could use during the introductions (see my examples below).
Clarify for your networking host what a qualified prospect looks like for you. For example, you might include some of the following:
Ask your networking host to introduce you to one qualified individual at a time with an explanation of how helpful you have been to them (your networking host).
For instance, when your client introduces you to one of her contacts (a qualified lead for you), she might say, “Sam, let me introduce you to Peri. Peri has been really helpful to me with the problems I’ve been having with my team. My team’s sales have doubled. I think you might want to talk to her about what’s going on with your team. I think she could help to you too.”
Let your host leave you and your new contact to continue your conversation. Your host might say something like, “I'm going to move on so you two can talk. I'll catch up with you later.”
As you have your conversation with your new contact, ask your questions, share a client story that matches the issues they are facing, and provide valuable information. Focus on being helpful, but keep the conversation brief. As a general conversation strategy, discover the issues they are facing and provide value. As a byproduct, you’ll demonstrate your competence.
Finish the conversation by getting your contact’s information and confirming a plan for the next step. I also find it helpful to connect with the individual via LinkedIn that same day (if I’m not already connected with him/her).
Effective networking in today’s marketplace is about building relationships and providing value so you earn the right to a sales conversation later. This way you increase of the odds of meeting more qualified individuals that will ultimately lead to getting more business out of one networking event.
Connect with someone else at the event, allowing your networking host client to rejoin you and introduce you to the next qualified individual. As your host introduces you to others and you provide value to those individuals, you’ll often find your new contacts will start introducing you to others as well. If you do it well, it becomes a self-perpetuating process.
When you use these six steps, you leave the networking event with several highly qualified leads who are more likely to become clients because of the warm introduction and the value you provided.
To learn more about refining your sales process, visit salesforce.com, or download the free e-book.