Networking is a form of prospect “sourcing” that allows you access and exposure to a number of prospects through some arranged medium. This could be an association meeting, a trade show, or otherwise. It is a true exposure, meaning you are face-to-face with an influencer or potential buyer as opposed to trying to get past a gatekeeper.
Networking – the Skill
Networking is also a skill set that can yield strong results efficiently. Quick reads as to whether someone is receptive during the personal contact will help you determine who is an immediate prospect, and whom you need to work on.
That means that although you do not get benefit of racial anonymity, as a Black sales professional you get a chance to impress and inform. If you are solid and you are armed with some of the items below, the networking introduction might be all you need to secure an appointment.
An organization called JUSTSELL put together a quick networking guide for preparing to network that is brief and comprehensive. I have linked to it so you can review it.
This document is short and to the point and discusses how to prepare for a networking event. It gives some great guidance about the process, objectives, and preparations.
Networking – the Activity
Networking is an activity that is casual and non-threatening and takes place in many settings. The forums (associations, chambers, etc.) are designed to make these comfortable and easy places to have relevant business discussions. I would make the statement that if one does not want to be involved with entrepreneurs and sales representatives, they would never attend such events.
Here are some examples of networking opportunities that are available to sales representatives:
Local Chamber of Commerce Meetings – There is one for each significant municipality.
Trade Association Meetings – Retailers, construction companies, wholesalers, transportation firms, etc. all have some group they are involved with.
Trade Shows – These are great sources of leads with many designed put a particular trade or industry group in the room with those particular organizations that supply and vend to them.
General Networking Events – Usually pre-arranged ‘Meet and Greets’, business cocktail hours, etc. Usually sponsored by some organization that stands to benefit from getting local organizations together, these allow for easy face-to-face contact with others and can be profitable, yet are not as focused as the others above.
Your event or forum should be thoroughly investigated to avoid wasting your time. You might ask a couple of relevant questions:
- How many of your current key clients will be there? They can introduce you to many others, and that is a great way to get credibility and get the immediate referral.
- Does the group have your type of prospect/customer there? Research the group well for your specific target prospect.
Three Minutes of Fame
You only need that brief opportunity, 3 minutes, to be successful if you consider a few very important points:
- Have a solid easy to follow introduction that serves you and your company well. Practice it!
- Know your ‘elevator speech’, which is your value statement. This is called an ‘elevator speech’ because you have just enough time to tell it between floors to a prospect.
- Have a closing line prepared. This is the one, which gets you further contact or the appointment.
- Have your informational/promotional material to hand out “prepackaged” if possible.
- Keep solid notes and data records. This is extremely important.
Proper Follow-Up Is the Key
You must do timely and effective follow up to have the whole event be meaningful. Follow-up with a note or e-mail as soon as is practical. I prefer a note if possible as I covered in Black Sales Journal 2/3, “Make Yourself Memorable”.
Also follow-up on any promise you have made regarding information or referrals within, or outside, your organization. Strike while the iron is hot!
Attempt to do these events on a monthly schedule, or try to do one a quarter to increase your scope and prospect base.
Remember as we have said before, be personable and tactical, and you could find yourself sourcing more prospects than you know what to do with.
Give it a try. Please let us know how it works.