Does this sound like a goal that’s too good to be true? It’s not, and you can make it part of your selling strategy. By learning the components of effective networking you can never make a cold call again. You also decrease the time it takes to close deals. The research on networking says that each person is connected through family, business or hobbies to a network of 250 people. Building your network should be your first priority, and here’s how to work the net.
Where do I go? Networking opportunities abound. Begin with your neighbors and friends. They need to know what you do and who you are looking for as customers. Ask them who they know and if you should be talking to them. Then ask your customers which organizations they belong to. Groups like trade organizations, Chambers of Commerce and Rotary organizations are perfect settings to meet prospects. These meetings provide casual opportunities for you to meet potential customers. By becoming a regular at meetings, people will learn what you do, who you are, and why they should recommend you to others. Other satisfied users of your products and services become word of mouth advertising for you. Research shows customers value word of mouth twice as much as any advertising you could buy. Make your contacts walking billboards for your business.
Manage your expectations. If you expect each interaction to produce immediate business for you, you will be disappointed. Look at your conversation as an opportunity to better get to know the needs of another businessperson. If you focus on the process of giving referrals, you will see the results of getting referrals. I call this the Golden Rule of Networking. If you focus on the result of getting referrals, you will project a different attitude and see your results diminished.
During your conversations, be prepared to learn as much about the other person’s business so you can clearly, enthusiastically introduce them to another person. “John works for XYZ Company and he has a wonderful business managing stocks” is an appropriate introduction. Your short term value is your ability to connect the people you meet to other people you are also meeting. Introducing people effectively is the first requirement. Your long term value is connecting the people you meet to other prospects and current customers.
What do I say? Always be prepared at a networking function with your first question. This open ended (can’t be answered with yes or no) question should make it easy for the listener to converse with you. “Hi, my name is John and I’d love to be able to help you with your business. So why don’t you tell me about what you do?” is a question which starts a conversation. Follow up questions are: “What type of customers are you looking for?” “How did you get into that business?” “Who would you like to meet here?” Even if it’s your first meeting, this gives you a reason to talk with other people.
Look for the people who are by themselves. They will be grateful someone sought them out so they don’t have to be alone. Your opener could be “I see you are by yourself and so am I. Is this your first meeting here?” Be prepared with your open ended questions to keep the conversation flowing.
My statistics are in. My networking this month produced four seminar orders and five new leads. I’ll never make a cold call again and neither should you.
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Selling. Copyright Maura Schreier-Fleming.