I assume your elevator pitch (covered in my preceding newsletter/post) struck a cord and that your active but low-keyed networking actions described in this post will assist in turning requests of “tell me more” into an interesting discussion.

How you react might just be the start of a long-term business relationship.

(This post is the 2nd in a series of three about networking.) 

Table talk

After the introductions, there is usually an opportunity for getting to know your table or event partners. Most entrepreneurs talk about their companies, products and services as they have a passion for what they do. This time not brief, but lengthy, enthusiastic ramblings with lots of detail.

Refrain from doing following this pattern. Don’t talk about yourself unless asked to do so and, if asked, do so in 15 seconds.

Be pleased and delighted that you were asked and tell slightly more about what outcomes you assist your clients to achieve. Then turn the tables around and ask the participant who addressed you: “What do you do?”

Be really interested. Listen carefully. Ask questions which are normally not asked: What do you really like about your company? What results are you achieving? What challenges are you facing? How are you doing? Any bottlenecks? Is there a growing demand for your products?

Listen for touch points

  • What can you do to assist (if you can assist)? Do not try to recruit a client or to make a sale
  • Be helpful with no strings attached
  • Do you have specialised information which covers an issue or topic that they have just mentioned?  Offer to send an article or a link (from your collection of articles.) Do not go into details.

Exchange cards simply to enable you to send the mentioned information or article.

If there is no possibility of you changing or enriching their lives, refer them, if you can, to someone who seeks their kind of products or services or who could help. Do not let your interest flag.

Note the focus is on them and not on you.

Market – do not sell

You will virtually never strike a deal or make a sale at a networking event. And that should never be your aim. A networking event is a marketing event. Consequently, market solutions and benefits and steer clear of processes and sales talk.

Aim for three outcomes if you have struck a chord with someone of interest:

  • Offer to send your new contact information e.g. an interesting article and for this purpose exchange cards
  • Possibly an informal meeting within the next week or so over a cup of coffee, simply to chat
  • Turning one or two strangers into acquaintances is an excellent outcome

What you want to achieve is follow-up contact as such contact builds more knowledge about their business or situation. What could you do to solve their problems? What value could you provide to them?

Contact builds trust and trust often leads to an arrangement.

Strangers to acquaintances to clients and even friends

You have to convert strangers (people whose names and addresses you do not have), into acquaintances (prospects i.e. people who gave you their names and addresses and permission) and, in due course, turn acquaintances into clients and even friends (clients i.e. with whom you have long-term, cordial and trustworthy business dealings.).

With this approach every networking event is an exciting event. I get 70% of my clients through referrals, 20% through networking and 10% through my website and newsletter.

Of course, attend networking events that attract the kind of individuals who reflect your present or preferred client base.

A networking mindset

I view networking events as a wonderful opportunity for making new acquaintances. I am not anxious about getting new clients. If a new contact meets my criteria of an “Ideal Client”, I look forward to the possibility and opportunity of being of assistance – but only if my new acquaintance thinks I’m an “Ideal Consultant” in his or her terms.

After all, we might work together for a year or more and this should be a pleasant, valuable experience.