Business-to-business networking is more than schmoozing. Ever been to one of those business gatherings and found cliques of people chatting among themselves? Did you ever wander into a room full of business people only to be overwhelmed by the large crowd? Or as a great salesperson have you mastered the art of business-to-business networking?
What Is Business-To-Business Networking?
Great salespeople look for the opportunity to meet new prospects in a variety of places. They enjoy introducing themselves to potential customers. Sometimes they exchange ideas and take away new knowledge to make them better salespeople. Business-to-business networking is simply meeting with other like-minded people in a formal or casual setting for the purpose of finding new prospects or ideas. Some networking events are small and informal organized by an interested salesperson. Others are formal and require a group membership or registration fee. Trade groups have market focused networking events. Chambers of commerce networking events are more broadly attended.
Successful Business-To-Business Networking Begins With A Plan
Like all activities great salespeople make a plan when attending a business-to-business networking event. First research the event to see what types of people will be attending. How well does it match your target market? Were you invited by one of your customers? Have you been to the event before? Second, if you can get the registration list, identify those people you would like to meet. If there is no list, decide how you will identify those you would like to engage. Third prepare a short conversation starter to introduce yourself and find out enough about them to know whether to invest time in building a relationship. Fourth plan a way to politely break away if the person is not of interest.
At The Networking Event
Arrive a bit early to get registered. Usually the crowd is smaller at the beginning of the event so you can more easily find appropriate conversation partners. If a registration list is available, take a few minutes to note those who you would like to meet. When you have found a potential customer speak with them only long enough gather sufficient information to see whether they are worth a follow up. If so, get contact information and a commitment to meet. Then move on. Remember this is not a selling opportunity. Great salespeople know the objective of networking is to meet enough potential clients to make the investment in time worthwhile.
After The Business-To-Business Networking Event
Great salespeople follow up quickly after the event. During the conversation you most likely made some commitment. Take care of it. Call to schedule an appointment. Send an email follow-up thanking them for speaking with you and asking for time to meet, a referral or information they promised to send. The primary purpose of the follow-up is to have the contact remember you. But if they are a potential customer you wish to pursue, then the follow-up begins the sales process. Take some time to evaluate your performance at the event. Did you accomplish your goals? Was the event worthwhile?
Business-To-Business Networking Hints
- Bring an ample supply of business cards.
- Put your cards in one pocket and those from others in a separate pocket.
- Make notes on the business cards you receive. These remind you of required follow-up.
- Wear your name badge high up on the right side where it is more easily seen.
- Limit each conversation; spending just enough time to qualify the person for follow-up.
- This is not the time to sell. Politely put off detailed conversations: “That’s an interesting question. Now is not the time to discuss it in detail. When can we meet so I can adequately answer the question?”
- After the event sort the business cards. Follow-up with the most likely prospects and toss out those who are not business opportunities.
Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford