A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Networking Events

With Q4 around the corner and event season (September) upon us, we here at JBarrows will be making the rounds at all the events coming up like Tenbound, HyperGrowth, INBOUND, Digital Sales World and of course Dreamforce.

With Q4 around the corner and event season (September) upon us, we here at JBarrows will be making the rounds at all the events coming up like Tenbound, HyperGrowth, INBOUND, Digital Sales World and of course Dreamforce. In order to get the most out of these opportunities for us and for you, we’ve developed this guide. Read it below or download your own copy here.

Why this process is important:

This process is important because attending networking events is an extremely effective way to have direct face to face contact with potential customers and partners for your business. If events are well planned and prepared for they can provide immediate qualified leads in a short amount of time. However, attending a networking event without preparation or a strategy can be a complete waste of time. Also, networking events are a great way to practice your ‘pitch’ and see how people react to how you are presenting your company.

Preparing for the event:

The last week of every month dedicate specific time on your calendar to identify your event schedule for the upcoming month.

  • Type into Google “Networking Events (city)”
  • Review the calendar/event section of the local business journals
  • Go to the Chamber of Commerce website for the city
  • Research each event and call the primary point of contact to find out as much information as possible to determine the caliber of the event and those attending

Call the event coordinator and ask qualifying questions like:

  • How many people do they expect to attend?
  • How many people attended the last event?
  • Ask for a list of prior attendees
  • Who is the target market for this event? – Owners, sales professional, etc.
  • What is the format of the event? – Open networking, speakers, panel, etc.

Identify your personal strategy and set goals (“SMART Goal Setting”) for the event. Examples:

  • “I want to meet at least 10 people tonight, get 10 business cards and find at least 3 strong prospective clients.”
  • “I will get the following information from everyone I meet: how large the company is, how they are currently managing IT, immediate need, and who I can follow up with.”
  • “I will find at least 2 potential business partners who focus on selling to the same client demographic.”
  • “I will find at least 2 prospective clients and schedule follow-up meetings with both of them to discuss my services.”

Understand the composition of those attending the event and prepare accordingly.

  • Understand what customers you currently have in the specified industries to be able to use as references and validation during conversations.
  • Understand what partners you have who are related to the industry and may be well known.
  • Identify other sales reps on your team who would be most appropriate to attend the event with.
  • Develop team goals and strategy for the event.
  • Make a contest out of it if you have to get motivated.

Prepare specific ‘attention-grabbing’ statements to answer the question “What do you do?”

This is what most people consider to be their elevator pitch. However, a typical elevator pitch is ineffective due to the fact it is too long, too general, all about you, and says too much. Instead, you should develop 3-4 ‘attention-grabbing’ statements for specific solutions or to specific targets (CFO, CEO, VP of Sales, etc). These statements should take no longer than 15 seconds to say, be specific, compelling, and passionate. They should solicit the response of “What?” or “How do you do that?” or “Tell me more.” If they do not solicit one of those responses then your ‘pitch’ was not effective.

During the event:

Show up 15 minutes early to every event. Have the mindset of “finding prospects or partners” and realize this is more of a business event than it is a social event. Eating prior to the event is always recommended. If you haven’t eaten already then eat as soon as possible so you are not trying to walk/talk/network with food in your hands. Bring plenty of business cards and have them easily accessible (front shirt pocket). Have a pen ready and convenient. Recap strategy and goals with your partner or team member and split up.

Forceful confident introductions/conversations examples

Break into group conversations, stand and wait for an opportunity to introduce yourself. An easy way to introduce yourself to a group is “Do you mind if I join your conversation?”

Try to first ask about the other person:

  • Company, industry, what they do, who they are looking to meet, clarify what their target market is, how large their company is, how many locations, etc.
  • Identify them as a potential customer, partner or waste of time.

Introduce yourself when asked.

When asked “What do you do?” use one of the ‘attention-grabbing’ statements you have developed with the goal of soliciting the response “Really? or “Tell me more” or “How do you do that?” This is a 5-15 second statement that will earn you two more minutes of a discussion. If you get engaged in the discussion and they seemed interested in what you do, try not to get caught up in telling them everything. Include the essential information and continue to peak their interest. Remember, your goal is to get a follow-up meeting with them, not to sell them at the event.

Treat every conversation as a timed event

Go back to the goals you set for the event. If the event is 2 hours long and your goal is to get 10 business cards then you have a maximum of 12 minutes to spend with each person. Taking into consideration that out of 10 people you talk to the likelihood is small that each one of them will be a good fit for you, you will need to talk to more people. Use the 3:1 rule as a baseline which means that out of every three people you speak with at an event, maybe one has some potential as a prospective client or a business partner. Using 3:1 and your goal of getting 10 qualified business cards you will need to talk to at least 30 people in 120 minutes which means you have 4 minutes for each conversation. By treating every conversation as a timed event, regardless of how good or bad the conversation is, it will help you stay focused.

Exiting the conversation

Good conversation with potential for follow-up:

Say something like “It seems as though it would be worth following up with a more specific discussion about your needs and our solutions. Would you be open to a meeting or giving me the name of someone at your firm I could follow up with?”

If they agree to a meeting see if you can schedule it right then and there with your Smartphone and ask if they have theirs. This is a direct approach but people who are serious will respect it.

If they give you the name of someone at their firm for you to follow-up by asking them if they would send that person an e-mail letting them know you will be calling CC you on an introduction e-mail.

Bad conversation with no potential:

Say something like “My goal coming into this event was to walk home with at least 10 business cards and I’m falling a little behind. I appreciate your time and if I come across anyone who I feel would be a good fit for you I will definitely point them in your direction. If you could do the same for me I would greatly appreciate it.”

After meeting with someone:

  • Take time to write notes on the back of business card.
  • Write down as much detail as you can about the person and company.
  • At a minimum write down the size of the company, current situation and if they agreed to follow up.
  • Fold over the corner of those business cards that you feel are potential customers or there may be an immediate opportunity.

After the event:

  • Prioritize leads and potential partners.
  • Review notes on the back of the card.
  • Input all notes into your CRM, including the name and date of the event you met this person at.
  • Schedule time to send a follow-up e-mail to contacts as it relates to conversation – remind them that you met them at the event and what you spoke about.
  • Call all prospective clients prospects to set up meetings – remind them that you met them at the event and what you spoke about.

Good luck and Make It Happen!

If you enjoyed this post on networking, check out episode 26 of my podcast where I go into more details.

JBarrows Podcast