We all know that word-of-mouth advertising is one of the cheapest and most effective types of advertising that you and your company can get. In order to make this happen, you need to get out of your office and network with people at your local Chamber of Commerce, industry association or a business card exchange event. However, the reality is this: Very few people go to these events to buy what you are selling.
When you are networking, you are not selling
When you are at a networking event, don't focus on trying to sell to everyone. Look at it as an opportunity to be a teacher, a center of influence and a fount of knowledge for buying what you are selling. By making a few changes to your approach, you can become a center of influence in any industry and, in effect, generate a considerable amount of word-of-mouth advertising.
Go into a networking event to do just that ... network
One of the biggest mistakes most people make when networking is trying to sell to someone (this happens whether or not the person they are speaking to is showing buying signals). This is the LAST thing you should do. Don't talk about how great you are or why someone should buy from you. Just have a general one or two sentence overview of what you do and the type of people you work with. Tell people this, along with how much fun you have doing your job, and you will find people asking you more about what you do. If you go into a heavy sales pitch, you will only end up pushing opportunities away.
If they like and trust you, you will have a better chance of making a sale
Networking is one of the best ways for increasing your field of influence to help promote what you sell. Moreover, the reality of being in business is that people do business with (and recommend) those whom they like and trust. To facilitate this bond, you should help other people get what they want.
Take an interest in other people
Experts have proven that people like those who are interested in them. One of the fastest ways of getting people to talk is to ask them questions about what they do. So, what type of questions can you ask someone? Here are a few questions that you can ask at your next networking event (write them down on a small card and read them before you go into your next event):
- What is your name?
- What line of work are you in?
- Do you own the company (never assume that people are at the low end of their company)?
- Where are you located?
- What made you start your own company (owner question), or how long have you been working for this company? This keeps the conversation rolling and provides you with some interesting background information.
- I know a lot of people here. What type of person would be a good prospect who I could introduce to you? Once you ask this question, you will be shocked at the positive effect this will have on the conversation.
- Ask everyone for a business card and for their permission to send your newsletter to them.
By asking these questions at your next networking event, you will quickly get to know people and learn what they do. Now, don't stop here. Get out a pen and write down on their business cards some key information about them. When you get back to the office, enter their names in a CRM tool, like ACT! or Goldmine, so you can keep track of these people electronically. This will make it easier when it comes time to send them electronic newsletters or direct-mail campaigns.
If you do this at every networking event you attend, the word will spread rather quickly that YOU are the person everyone needs to turn to when buying what you are selling. You can also leverage your sales by sending these same people a series of e-mail newsletters and direct mail campaigns.
Need help or want more information about networking? Contact Cindy McSwain using the information below.
Senior Vice President
Cindy McSwain leads AGH’s outsourcing services group. Her team provides payroll, accounting, funds disbursement, controller, and other financial outsourcing services to numerous clients throughout the U.S. Prior to joining the outsourcing group, Cindy served AGH’s audit clients for 10 years, working with a wide range of middle-market, closely held and family-owned organizations.
Her current clients cross many industry sectors, including manufacturing and distribution, restaurants, retailers, medical and not-for-profit. She has participated in numerous SEC filings and public registrations and has experience in mergers and acquisitions. Cindy is a certified public accountant and a member of both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants.
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