Okay, first I enjoy networking at the core level which is all about being with other people and learning new and important information about people, old relationships and some limited corporate gossip.
Second, it helped build my business back in the 80’s and 90’s. Yet, those were different times and it was a lot simpler to make real business relationships while doing “community level” networking.
And, finally, it was a real opportunity to get introduced to other people in an organization through your new contact. In fact, this was a time when people actually answered their phone calls or returned your phone calls within 24 hours. How I loved those times in b2b sales.
Today, the business world is different, particularly if you are selling to larger organizations or even the aggressive mid-sized businesses within your local market. So, what has changed and how can you do better this year. There are three areas you must watch.
First, the old idea that local community gatherings and local professional organizations can open doors to the larger accounts in your area is wrong. This only works if you are selling to all sizes of organizations and especially small businesses – then this will work.
Yet, in selling to the larger organizations, you will get very few opportunities to meet high level executives at these functions unless they are the speaker of the day. The reality is you will be getting lower level people and every sales person under the local sun – who mostly are looking at you as a source for them to sell to your organization.
Your goal is to uncover where the top level executives go for their learning or experiences – such as national trade organizations or C class conferences talking about topics of interest for top level executives. Is it possible for you to become a topic expert and speak at one the larger conferences? This is where you get doors opened to the executive suite.
Second, believing you can get good and effective referrals from the local and professional meetings. I will not go so far as to say you will never get a referral from a chance meeting, however, the reality is – it is very rare.
The fact is very few people would give a referral to basically – a stranger! When reputable people hand out referrals it is because they really know a person and can vouch for their performance. Another way to think about it is when you give a referral to someone it is your credibility and name on the line more so than the person you are referring. Be aware a credible person does not endorse someone they don’t know – it is bad business.
Your goal is to get your best customers to refer you until you have a huge referral base of satisfied customers – who will share your name and reputation with others. When you earn it – it is more valuable.
Finally, there is a myth whereby you are supposed to attend these meetings until you meet the right person or contact into your target accounts. And, it therefore takes time and patience to become successful in networking. Poppycock! You will go broke waiting for the right person to “happen” to attend a local meeting and for you to get into a targeted account. No this is a high risk exercise with a very low return on your time, energy and efforts.
Think proactive here. You need to do your research and target the people you need to meet. Using your top ten targeted accounts, do you homework (research) to learn who are the major players at these organizations. Then, research each individual to learn about their outside interests. If you have a common interest, then use this as an opportunity to meet an important person within the targeted account.
The key lesson to learn here is you must be proactive. You can become a speaker on a topic and present to national conferences designed for the top level executives. You can do focused research on your targeted accounts and learn as much as possible about the outside interests of the top people. Then make arrangements to be active where you have common interests and meet the executive. When you work hard and smart, you win.