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Tradeshows and networking in general can be an important part of your sales activities and overall marketing mix. But, simply showing up is not enough. In order to make the most of your time spent at these events, here are some tips to maximize your time and networking efforts:
Maximizing your networking efforts tip #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Start a Conversation! People at networking events and tradeshows are typically there for the same reason you are — to make new connections and discover new products, services and programs. Although it might feel awkward to strike up conversations with strangers, remember, the whole point of why people attend these events is to build business. And you can’t build business if you can’t start the conversation!
Maximizing your networking efforts tip #2: Develop a Game Plan. Do some research on the vendors, association members, products or other aspects beforehand so when you get there, you have a better plan of who you want to talk to or specific things you want to check out. You can also learn more about people or the products by checking out their LinkedIn profile or information located on the association or company websites. Showing you know more about your prospective client beforehand can be a great way to further opening up the channels of communication even more!
Maximizing your networking efforts tip #3: Have a Goal in Mind.This is especially important if you are the sales rep or owner of the company. Before you get to the event, have a goal in mind to talk to “X” number of potential clients or a goal talk to “X” number of potential business partners, for example. This can be a great motivator to making sure you’re starting conversations and focusing your energy in the right places while you’re at these events.
Maximizing your networking efforts tip #4: Think About What You Are Going To Say Ahead of Time. You might be a naturally gregarious person who can strike up a conversation with anyone. Or, you might be more on the reserved side and even have anxiety about approaching people. In either case, it’s strongly recommended that you think about what you’re going to say to people before the event so you can sound polished and prepared when the moment arrives for you to pitch your unique value proposition. When somebody asks you about your company and what you do, is your response something like, “We do restoration contracting work”? Well, of course you do, but, is that compelling enough to draw your prospect into the conversation and gain their interest, or do you sound like every other restoration contractor? Having a strong opening to your conversation will garner better results of that person wanting to do business with you and help them clearly see your unique value proposition.
Maximizing your networking efforts tip #5: Be a Good Listener. Don’t rush through a conversation with someone, ask them plenty of questions and be genuinely interested in what they have to say about their services or products. Networking is a two way street, and even though you may not use their product, that prospect might still be a potential client for you. Even if you can’t use their product, you might know someone else you could recommend to them. And sending someone word-of-mouth referrals is always considered the beginning of a beautiful relationship!
Most importantly, make sure to reconnect with the people you had conversations with after the event or show is over. For those that were not a good fit for your products or services, you can do something as simple as connecting on LinkedIn with a “nice to meet you” type of message or shooting them a follow up e-mail. For those who turned out to be good business leads, be sure to get on the phone as soon as possible in order to not lose the sales momentum. Remember, the killer in all sales is improper and infrequent follow up. It would be a shame to have spent your time, energy and resources trying to meet them in the first place and then let the deal go dry by not continuing the conversation.
Tim Miller is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Business Development Associates Inc. Miller is a highly regarded sales and marketing expert in the industry, and brings 30 years of experience and a unique perspective to help businesses solve their problems and grow to the next level. He is also a published author in several trade magazines and speaks at multiple industry events and conferences throughout the year, where he leverages his business experience in both the restoration industry and his other entrepreneurial ventures, including his own construction company in New Mexico.