Thursday, May 1, 2008

FloodLight Consulting - Networking for Results - How to “Work a room”

Last month we discussed the importance of an “Elevator Pitch”. This month we’ll take a look at a few things you can do to take advantage of networking events.

Networking at an event is a great way of getting your name or service out in front of potential customers. In fact, in the past few years my clients have forged a number of relationships that have led to more sales and sustained growth for their business by attending events with friends and business associates, and working different parts of the room with a plan to meet their target market.

While there are a number of ways to “work a room” that offer varying degrees of success, here are some good, fundamental strategies to keep in mind. By applying these techniques, you’ll give yourself the best chance of establishing sustained relationships that lead to more sales!

FloodLight - Tip of the month / 10 tips on How to “work a room” that delivers results!!!!!

1. Start with the end in mind – You want to create a positive first impression. Dress appropriately. Take plenty of business cards; this makes it easier for others to contact you. Decide that you want to make the most of the event. Be open, upbeat and enthusiastic. Choose an event that is closely matched with your target market. Wear your own personalized name badge or wear a badge with your personal tag line.

2. Arrive early and scout the room – Look over the room and pick three to four key areas where traffic will flow but also allow you to acknowledge people. At a recent event I chose two areas where people had to go by and get their refreshments. It allowed me to meet seven new business contacts and I renewed six old acquaintances in my target market. Out of this event three prospects have recently become clients.

3. Set a goal for the number of new people (Prospects) you want to meet who are in your target market – Consider how many people you would like to talk to and how many cards you would like to take away. Ideally at a two hour event a minimum of 5 to 10 new people in your target market should be your goal. Make sure your goal is a stretch, yet achievable, and don’t leave until you’ve met your goal. This can give you the impetus to move on in the conversation.
4. Act like a host, not a guest – If you adopt the mindset of a host you are more likely to be proactive in greeting people, introducing yourself and asking people if they would like to meet others. You can create as strong an impression by being a conduit for people. Be open in posture and do not square your shoulders to your prospect, boxing people in. Keep an open stance which will allow others to join in your conversation and give more opportunities to meet people.

5. Breaking into groups – Avoid approaching two people who seem to be talking intensely. Instead approach groups of three or more. Stand close by and acknowledge what’s being said through your body language and facial expressions. Seize the right moment to make eye contact and say ‘hello’ or add something to the conversation. Even better, look for an acquaintance or business associate and stop by to speak with them when they are speaking with someone you do not know.

6. Make your introduction interesting (Elevator Pitch) – An effective introduction is brief and memorable; it needs to have sufficient impact to get the interest of the group. That’s why you need an Elevator Pitch – a short description of your business that enables prospective buyers to know who you work with and what value you bring to the relationship. An Elevator Pitch conveys your marketing message in a manner that literally attracts the right customer to you.

7. Listen and aim to give value – Listening is crucial when networking and it’s only too evident when someone is not paying attention to you. Find out about the person/people in the group, uncover ways you can be a useful resource to them. Show a genuine interest in the person – you’re more likely to find common ground as they open up. People want to spend time with people they like and trust.

8. Change your focus from ‘what’s in it for me?’ to ‘what can I offer you?’ – People quickly work out if someone is aiming to sell to them or is only interested in taking what they can get. Networking is about developing relationships with others, so meeting people at events is about starting the process, not ending it. If you give value by helping them in some way – by introducing them to a referral or offering some information – they’re more likely to spend time with you and respond to your follow-ups.

9. Breaking away professionally – You may feel uncomfortable or rude breaking away from a conversation, even though such events or cocktail parties are designed for people to circulate. If you’re enjoying the company, suggest that you both join another group. If you want to get away completely, or the conversation has run its course, say something like ‘it’s been great to meet you, I hope you enjoy the rest of the event’ or ‘let’s keep in touch’. Don’t over-complicate your exit, just make your voice tone sound final, and then move away. As you leave mention that you will follow up with them later in the week.

10. Follow up afterwards – Ask each person you meet for two cards – one to pass on and one to keep. It’s a powerful way of demonstrating you’d like to refer them to someone, or vice versa. Make a note on their business card of what you’ve promised to do for them, so you don’t forget. If they were open to your “Elevator Pitch” suggest that you will send them some further information. Once you have stepped away, note down a memorable feature of their image, or the conversation, to remind you of who they are. If you’re meeting lots of people, it’s easy to lose track. As soon as possible afterwards, drop them a line or give them a call and do what you said you would do. They’ll be delighted that you remembered them. Agree how you’ll keep in touch going forward.
Donald Robichaud
FloodLight Consulting

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