Networking is by far one of the most underutilized weapons in a sales person’s arsenal. It’s also attacked completely wrong in my not so humble opinion.
First, stop waiting for actual events and network as Jeff Gitomer says, “Where your feet are” This means striking up a conversation at the airport, in the elevator, at your kid’s soccer game, the wedding you have coming up. You never know who that person is or who they might know and the best part is that its free!
Next, change your thinking with regard to daytime networking events. For the most part, they are a waste of time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on networking cruises or to networking luncheons only to find out that we basically had a bunch of people looking to play a little game I like to call “Escape from the office”
The last thing you should do before the event is to check the news (local and national) as well as the networking group’s website. Doing so will keep you in the know and give you additional things to chat about.
No matter when, where or how you choose to network this next piece of advice is critical :
Stop trying to get a word in edge wise Lose your agenda Stop trying to one up Stop pimping your company
And . . .
Make it all about them!
Lisa Kirk once said: "A gossip is someone who talks to you about others, a bore is someone who talks to you about themself and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself!" Be that brilliant conversationalist. Show a genuine interest in others.
The way to do that is to ask questions. Lots of open ended questions to get them talking about who they are, what they do, how long they’ve been doing it, where they live, where their company is located, what do they do for fun when they aren’t conquering the world etc.
Make sure you ask them what an ideal client looks like for them so you can be on the hunt.
Here’s one my Dad taught me: Everyone likes to recommend things to others or to be asked for their input. Work that when you meet people. Ask if they can recommend a good book, a restaurant in their neck of the woods. If you are just starting out, ask for advice. Ask them what their biggest piece of advice would be to someone selling in this economy. Watch the dramatic change in body language when you show genuine interest and make someone an authority.
Additional Food For Thought:
Get out of your comfort zone. Don't stay with your co workers. Divide and conquer!
If you want to be approached, look approachable. Smile!
Hunt down the wall flowers, some of your best prospects are the ones others are neglecting.
It's not who you know, it's who knows you. Get on a committee with the goal of chairing it someday. The visibility will be good for you.
Prepare a good answer to the following question "What is it that you do?" You are going to be asked that question so you might as well have an answer that packs a punch! Tape yourself, bounce it off of friends. Make it memorable.
Do not under any circumstances look around while talking with someone for someone else to talk to. It is by far one of the rudest things you can do aside from silent farting in another human being's vehicle.
How do you end a conversation tactfully?
I usually say “Look it’s Brad Pitt” and then I use my Jedi skills to bail the hell out of there real quick! A much better approach is to simply put it on you. When you put it on yourself, its hard to offend others. Here’s what I say “(name) one of the things I promised myself I’d do today was step outside my comfort zone and not cling to anyone as a safety net. I really enjoyed talking with you and will keep my eyes and ears open for those I can refer to you. Can I ask you to do the same?”
The first thing you do after the event is send everyone you were able to chat with a handwritten thank you. In the thank you, mention something specific you chatted about and how you look forward to helping them build their network. Please don’t send this as an email. The world is so full of virtual moments that you need to keep things real time!
I have a tremendous amount of material for you on this subject so stay tuned and happy networking!
Paul Castain is the Vice President of Sales Development for Consolidated Graphics (CGX) one of North America’s leading general commercial printing companies. Paul has over 25 years of sales and sales leadership experience. He has trained, mentored and coached over 3,000 sales and sales leadership professionals. An accomplished public speaker, Paul has delivered numerous key note addresses. He has authored numerous training manuals, articles, blog posts and is currently working on his first book for release in 2011. Feel free to email Paul email@example.com.
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Paul Castain's Sales Play Book is blog dedicated to strengthening our sales game, supporting rock star development and developing jedi like skills. All that is required is a willingness to learn and a sick sense of humor!
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