I met you at a networking event, we talked for a while near the canapés, we talked about what you do, we talked about what I do. We talked about clients and colleagues and crossovers. I went away with your business card, you went away with mine, we shook hands and promised to talk business later in the week. You said you were interested and I thought you were a good prospect (and I suspect you thought the same). That was a month ago and you still won’t call…. But one of your colleagues keeps emailing me about what you do…
Familiar? Frustrating? For me one of the biggest problems with networking events, tradeshows and even industry presentations, is that pretty much everyone is there to find some new prospects, it’s a tough old game and as a consequence, not everyone you meet is entirely open and honest with their intentions and will happily nod, smile, and ask all the right questions when you tell them what you do, I suppose the flip side is that you do the same.
Is there a better way?
Know your buyers:
I think there is and it starts with knowing who your buyers are. If you are reading this you probably already know about Passle and what we do. I know that the sort of people that buy Passle are (broadly speaking) either working in marketing/comms/PR and want their in-house experts to create content, or the subject matter experts themselves that recognise the importance of demonstrating their expertise online. I also know that there are a network of people that may not use Passle – but will happily recommend it to their connections.
Being aware of this helps me to understand whether a conversation is likely to lead to a business conversation or whether it’s just a pleasant chat. I can manage my own expectations and prioritise the conversations that may lead to business over those that will lead me into a cross selling quagmire.
Choose your events:
The topic can be just as important as the audience – reading the synopsis, speaker bios and understanding why people are going to the event can really help to work out whether the people you meet are likely to be good for business. Going to an event about freezers and trying to talk to people about boilers is not good use of your time!
Choose a goal based on the event and the attendees:
Networking events can be great fun (and also pretty diabolical), and just because the audience are not potential buyers and the topic is not quite right doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. You never know who you might meet, or where it will lead. However – setting a broad goal for your evening is a valuable exercise, whether it’s “I want to make new contacts in the widget industry”, “I want to talk to the head of marketing at XYZ Co” or simply “I want to make some new connections in my sector”
It’s a tough thing to do, especially if you are having a great chat and are worried the other person will think, but being totally honest – “I think what you do is interesting, it wouldn’t be my decision but I’ll mention it to my boss, but I can’t promise anything” or “great to meet you, happy to connect but I don’t have a need for what you do”
I think if we were all a bit more honest about our motivations at events, this would help us to cut down on the cross-selling circus and allow us to concentrate on real relationships and real conversations.