By Will Kintish, Business Networking Skills And LinkedIn Authority
Networking, the activity every professional is doing or supposed to be doing to attract more clients and additional business, are you? “Working the room”, “becoming more visible”, “go to more events” is the cry on the streets.
The Willing Networker
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that you and your colleagues are keen to be out there doing it as an alternative to the tedium of the office and it’s environment. You accept lots of invitations and you are not too phased when it comes to walking into the room full of strangers. You are the sort of person who chats easily and builds rapport quickly. You meet a number of new contacts through the event, show infinite confidence (whether it’s real or false it doesn’t matter) introducing one person to another and, all in all, everyone sees you as a confident and effective networker.
Valuing Your Time
That’s terrific; there aren’t many of us about! But what do you do after the event? If the answer is nothing, i.e. you don’t follow up and keep in touch then you have committed the cardinal sin. Stop for a moment to consider what’s happened here? You have given up two to three hours of your valuable time (it is valuable isn’t it?), to a conference or any type of business event. If you always get something from every event you attend – you are not a sinner so read something else.
But, if you rarely create any business opportunities after networking please read on. Networking is a time consuming exercise often practised as an adjunct rather than an integral part of your working day. You are using time more often reserved for social partners, spouses, children and friends. You are depriving them and if you value your social time, given the choice, depriving yourself. So don’t waste it.
The sin is not following up and keeping in touch. “Why don’t you do it”, I ask delegates on my workshops. Some of the responses I get are:
- I don’t want to seem too pushy.
- I am too busy.
- I forget very quickly.
- I feel like a salesman.
- I struggle to pick up the phone.
- If they want my services, they’ll call me.
The list goes on.
Persistent or Pest?
The basic different between the two is asking your prospect for permission to keep in touch and at every opportunity giving that person an escape route.
“If you don’t think I can help, please tell me and I won’t bother you any further”.
The Follow-up Process
In case these words hit home let me give you a simple step-by-step process to achieve a potential result without feeling uncomfortable.
After you have had a good conversation with someone at a networking event contact ask for their business card. Read it carefully and show interest in what’s on the card.
At the appropriate moment ask if you can contact them in a specific period in the next few days. If you have created the right impression the chances are they will say yes. This is your first chance to say to them if they would rather you didn’t call them. Give them an “out” at that juncture.
In front of them, write on the back of their card the time you have agreed to call them. This will remind you and shows commitment to them.
When you leave the person write on their card (front or back it doesn’t matter they are never going to see the card again) when you met them, where you met them. As many important things about them as you can, be it business or personal.
File all cards and never throw any cards away... you never know. With all the useful information on them, you will be able to recall the person even years later.
Call on the day you agree and see if you can arrange to see the person or have your initial chat there are then. If you can recall some titbit of the conversation you have had the first time you met, this would be a very useful relationship building exercise, your new-found contact is going to think that you are a good listener and were interested in what they had to say.
When this new contact says, “send some information” send some information, but don’t forget to ask if you can call them in the next two or three weeks to see what their thoughts are.
In your letter sending the information remind them that they have agreed that you will be speaking again at an appropriate period of time.
Make the call. You are not going to be so popular at this juncture and you invariably end up with “they are not in”, “they are in a meeting”, “I’ll get him to phone you back” etc, etc. You have now come up against the gatekeeper. the receptionist, the secretary or the PA. The networking process starts all over again here by building relationships with the gatekeeper. Talk in a friendly and civil manner, these people can open the door just as easily as keeping it barred from your target.
If this person doesn’t call you back don't feel rejected. It’s not you that’s being rejected it’s your services at that moment. Keep going. Send them another letter and ask them again what they think about the information you have sent them and whether you can get together. Many people don’t reply simply because they want you there dangling at the end of the rope to remind them that you have a useful service but they are not quite ready to use it. If they have no interest in it whatsoever, they will probably tell you.
Keep writing and emailing and every so often say something like “please let me know if my services aren’t any good and I will disappear” or send them a fax back form with three options, namely:
- Give me a call for discussion.
- Email and say “sounds good but contact me again in 6 months”.
- No thanks; we have no need of your services.
All the way through this process you are giving them escape routes and if they don’t reply it only ever means “not yet”.
Make a decision. There are moments where you realise it’s not worth bothering so give up.
What the Experts Say
Research by sales guru, John Fenton shows that 73% of business buyers say “no” at least five times to any sales person before eventually saying “yes”. The research also found that a staggering 92% of people wishing to sell their services give up and move on to another target before they get the fifth “no”.
In other words, whilst 92% of impatient people rush from one prospect to another chasing the 27% of sales where the buying decisions are made quickly, the other 8% i.e. the patient ones are the only ones who stand any chance of winning the other 73% of sales.
Do the maths and you’ll see that patient sales professionals who persevere beyond the fifth “no” will win a massive 3109% more clients than the impatient counter-parts. Putting it another way, for every client the sales professional wins, the patient sales professional wins 31! That’s why in sales, as in other aspects of life, patience is a virtue.
The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.kintish.tv and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of both face-to-face and social networking.
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