“Mr. McCord, I’ve been faithfully attending at least two networking events every week for the past six or seven weeks but I’m not meeting enough prospects to make it worth my time. Do you have any suggestions?”
I received the above email last week from David who sells accounting and HR software to companies with from 200 to 750 employees.
After exchanging a couple of emails with David I discovered:
- David has no rhyme or reason to where he networks—if there is a networking event, he’ll be there
- His ideal contact is with a senior manager in accounting or IT or the company CEO
- His sales cycle is typically anywhere from 4 to 12 months
- He believes he needs to meet four or more quality contacts per networking event to make it worth his time
Like many, if not most, sellers, David has violated three keys to having a great networking event:
- Only Network Where Your Prospects Gather. David is ready and willing to network but he isn’t disciplined in selecting which events to attend. Most general networking events are not appropriate for the majority of us. General networking events tend to bring out a large number of salespeople and few buyers. Unless I’m selling something of general need such as autos, office supplies, electricity, or such, I have only a very small chance of meeting a real prospect. Worse, even if I’m selling general use products or services, most of the people I’ll meet at general networking events will be other sellers looking not to buy but to sell.
David—and you—should only be attending events where a large number of his prospects are likely to gather, i.e., specific business and industry association events where the business or industry is a prime prospect for his products or services. He might only be attending one or two events a month, but he’ll be spending his time getting to know real prospects, not other sellers.
- Know Why You’re There. David goes to networking events with the hope of meeting a decision maker and gaining their interest in his products or services—a totally unrealistic goal.
Based on David’s ideal contact being a senior IT or accounting manager or the CEO of the company, it is not realistic that he is going to connect with four or more of them at a networking event. Connecting with one or two would be close to a miracle because people in these positions from companies the size David targets are not often at these events. Some are. Most aren’t.
So if David isn’t there to meet the potential decision makers he ultimately wants to meet, why is he there? To meet contacts within the company who can help him meet the decision makers he ultimately wants to meet and to learn as much about the company and their potential needs for his products and services as possible. His goal is to find a connection into the company—period. He isn’t there to sell. He isn’t there to meet the decision maker (if he does that is just a bonus).