NETWORKING KNOW-HOW

Networking at Sales Convention is one of the best ways to gain insider info on what’s working in the industry and increase your referrals back home. However, many of us don’t think much about the nuts and bolts of it until we’re walking into the actual event. By applying the tried and true suggestions below, not only will you feel more prepared and confident, you’ll also be able to make the most of your time with the big thinkers and pacesetters nearby.

Start networking before you even get to the event. If there are specific people you want to connect with, email them ahead of time to let them know you’re looking forward to seeing/meeting them at Sales Convention. They will, most likely, email you back, which provides you with an opportunity to confirm when/where you’ll connect with them at the event.

Don’t be shy – introduce yourself! Arrive early and sit somewhere that allows you to see who’s coming and going. Turn your cell phone to vibrate. When you approach a person you’d like to talk with, always introduce yourself first (“Hi! I’m Will Jones. I emailed you about XYZ last week.”) and offer a friendly hand shake. Once introductions are made, practice steering the conversation away from you and back to the other person by asking open-ended questions. Before you part ways, be sure to trade contact info. If you’re uncomfortable giving out your business card or exchanging email addresses, role-play with a friend or family member beforehand.

Know what you want to say. Convention attendees are generally short on time and unable to stand around chatting for long. This aspect often scares novice networkers because they’re worried about being tongue-tied.

  • Make a list of questions you’d like to ask or topics you’d like to address and commit them to memory. Consider picking the two most important in case you’re really pressured for time, that way you’ll get the optimal connection without feeling flustered. Consider practicing asking the questions in front of the mirror.
  • For quick chats, a great lead-in might be something like: “Have I caught you at a bad time? I had two quick questions I wanted to ask you, if you have a minute.” Bear in mind that even if the person isn’t free at the moment, you might be able to arrange to see them at another function or for drinks/coffee some other time during the Convention.

Listen. Whenever you have an opportunity to network directly, be sure to listen well. A good networker is a good listener who focuses on the person they are talking to and nothing (or no one) else in the room. Limit your monologue and encourage them to talk. Whatever you do, no matter how excited or enamored of this person’s expertise/importance you are, don’t jump to conclusions about what they’re going to say next and try to fill it in for them. Remain calm and let them do the talking.

  • Stay positive and don’t fear pauses.
  • Maintain eye contact, nod, and use “open” body language (don’t fold your arms across your chest, etc.).
  • Don’t be afraid to take notes – especially if you’ve promised to follow up on something. Jotting down a quick note shows your enthusiasm and willingness to do what you’ve promised. It also ensures that you won’t forget!
  • Enjoy the diverse conversations. Each event is an opportunity to meet different types of people and learn new and interesting things.

If need be, excuse yourself gracefully. There will be times when you simply need to end a conversation. Thank the person you’ve been speaking with for their time, excuse yourself politely, and move on.

Follow up within a week. If you can, call or send a brief message to the people you met at Convention within the first seven days. If you can mention something relevant to a topic you shared, even better. This will show that you’re interested in what they said and that you’re willing to share information.

Stay in touch by email and/or phone. Anything can happen here. Keep the channels of communication flowing whenever you can; not everyone maintains good contacts after a networking event and they miss enormous opportunities.

Remember, the ultimate points of networking are sharing who you are and what skills you offer to the world, and getting the same in return. When done correctly, new connections can turn into new opportunities that can pay off for everyone!

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