To be successful in sales, you need to make connections—but not just with your existing customers. This is where networking comes in.
Networking can help you generate business leads and get feedback on your products or services. The most important parts of networking are, first, just getting out there and making yourself known— letting the world (or the room) know what you do. As the famous saying goes “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”
While getting out there and meeting people can be daunting and a bit awkward, there are several ways to make it easier, several of which we’ll discuss below.
Read on for seven networking tips for sales professionals.
For tips on networking on social media read How to Network Effectively Using Social Media
1. Know Who to Approach
When walking into a room full of groups of people chatting, it can be hard to know who to approach. First, start with people standing on their own as they’re probably also looking for someone to talk to. Make eye, contact, smile and approach.
Secondly, look for groups of three or other odd numbers. Chances are, 1 person in the group isn’t actively involved in the conversation and would welcome you joining the conversation.
Also pay attention to the group’s body language. Are they standing with a large opening that allows them to see the room? If so, that means they are open to or are looking for other people to join them. Groups that are tightly bundled together are often in a deep conversation which could be jarring to interrupt.
In addition, always look for someone making eye contact with you. You might find someone standing in a group that is getting bored and is looking for someone new to engage with.
2. Get the Conversation Rolling
Once you’ve approached someone, it’s time to start the conversation. There are several ways to do this.
- Consider having a few general ice-breakers in your back pocket. You could open with “What a full event. What do you think about the food?” Or “Hi. I’m [insert name]. It’s my first time at this event, do you come often?” Opening with something personal allows the relationship to build first and questions around what each other does will naturally follow.
- Is the person’s company on their name tag? Use their company as a conversation starter by saying either “I’ve haven’t come across your company yet, I’d love to know more about what you do.” Or, I’ve used your services before and love them. What do you do with the company?” Show an interest in the acquaintance’s organisation to try to build common ground.
- Drop names of people they may know or acquaintances you have in common. For example, you can say “I just talked to so-and-so the other day and…” This establishes commonalities between you, and people usually respond better to you when they think you care about their interests. Get the other person to talk about themselves and listen attentively. The conversation should be guided by your questions as opposed to your explanations.
- Try to find out who will be there and do some research on them. You can then, use this information to spark up a conversation.
3. Listen Actively
Listen attentively and ask questions with the goals of learning something and making a connection. Don’t be the person that is just waiting for an opportunity to talk about yourself. Listen, pay attention and be truly interested in what the other person has to say. Always ask questions to learn more about the other person.
Another tip is to remember the other person’s name. Use their name in the conversation to build a connection and to help you remember it. Watch my video interview with memory guru Nishant Kasibhatla to learn more tips around remembering people’s names.
4. Know Your “Elevator Pitch”
An elevator pitch is your answer to the question “What do you do?” or “What are you looking for?” The concept is based on the scenario where as you’re riding the elevator, someone asks what you do and you only have sixty seconds to make a good impression before one of you gets off the elevator. Truth be told, no one actually talks in elevators, but I’m sure you get the point.
It should be concise (between 30 and 60 seconds) but interesting, and it shouldn’t tell people what your job title is, but rather what problem you solve. For example, if you’re a copywriter, you could say “I help businesses create content that turns users into customers.”
There are some essential elements of a good pitch. It needs to be concise and clear. You should be able to explain what you do in sixty seconds or less. Your pitch needs to be targeted. This means it should be directed at a specific market or audience. It should name whom you help. Lastly, a pitch needs to be powerful so that you can make an impact on people and get some results.
It’s also useful for your pitch to tell a story. People like stories. And stories help to make it easier for people to understand how your product or service can help someone like them, because in telling the story you’re actually demonstrating how you’ve helped that “someone like them” in the past.
One element of a perfect pitch is the hook. A hook is something that’s irresistible, something that gets people’s attention. It grabs them by the collar and has them wanting to learn more. When they want to hear more, they’ll ask you to tell them more.
5. Exit with Class
Sometimes the person you’re speaking to won’t let you get a word in or keeps complaining about their boss—or perhaps the conversation is just coming to a natural close. How do you exit in a way that’s not awkward?
One great way to make a graceful exit is by introducing them to an acquaintance at the event, or someone you think they may connect with. You could also say something along the lines of “Well, let me know how that project goes; I’d love to hear how it turns out,” or “Have you seen anyone from (company name) yet? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.”
6. Be Consistent
Networking can be awkward for some, but if you go often you’ll get more comfortable. Go to the same group more than three times so you can talk to the same people and build relationships. You can’t just go one time and decide it doesn’t work! As we know, people buy from people they know, like and trust. It’s hard to do that in 1 interaction.
7. Follow up
Once you’ve talked with some people and exchanged information, it’s critical that you follow up. Reaching out can be beneficial even if you don’t have projects, mutual acquaintances, or upcoming events to connect over; the person may be able to help you in the future or introduce you to someone else of benefit to you.
Send them a message soon after the event; say it was nice to meet them and reference something you talked about. Set-up a more in-depth meeting if there was synergy.
Networking is a vital part of sales. Follow these networking tips for sales professionals and become more adept at approaching people, starting and exiting a conversation, explaining what you do, listening, and following up after the event.