Have you felt frustrated lately attending industry or association events because the
only attendees are other consultants all desperately seeking the elusive corporate client?
If so, you have only yourself and your fellow consultants to blame!
Strong words, but true. Corporate members of organizations complain that they have come
to hate going to industry functions because they are constantly barraged by consultants
trying to "hustle" them for work. They are resentful because they want to go to
these functions to learn, to network themselves and to relax among their peers. Instead,
they stay away because it is too stressful and annoying to be the brunt of all these
solicitations. That need not be the case if consultants would only learn to network
QUANTITY & QUALITY
Networking is about making contacts - the more the better. It's difficult to meet a lot
of people if you spend the entire evening monopolizing or allowing yourself to be
monopolized by one person. Five to seven minutes is an ideal amount of time to spend with
anyone. Don't stretch it past 10 minutes, especially if only a half hour has been allotted
to networking. That's basic arithmetic!
Once you've reached your goal with that contact or discovered that the person is a dolt
or trying to pitch you, it is perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself politely and move
on. If ending an unproductive conversation is difficult for you, remember that you're
doing the person a favor by freeing him or her to speak to someone who could be more
But, quantity alone will not suffice. If the contacts are not quality contacts, you
have wasted your time. It's very difficult to determine if a person is a quality contact,
one likely to give you business, if you're doing all the talking. And that brings us to
the most important point, conversation...
Whatever you do, NEVER MAKE A SALES PITCH AT A NETWORKING FUNCTION. You'll be perceived
only negatively as gauche, pushy, needy, desperate, insensitive, or inexperienced. Those
perceptions aren't going to help you get your message across, and you'll scare the
potential corporate clients away from future attendance.
There's truth to the adage that we have two ears and one mouth because we should listen
twice as much as we talk. Listening is also twice as hard for most people in our culture.
But, if you do all the talking, how can you possibly qualify a prospect? Keep quiet and
get the people you meet to talk. Most people love to talk about themselves, and they
appreciate others who give them that opportunity. You'll be amazed at what you can learn.
Arrange to meet at a later date when you close the encounter, "Your comments have
given me some ideas I'd like to discuss further over lunch. Are you available
Thursday?" Or, make your sales call during business hours the next day, opening with
a reference to the previous day's conversation, "Your remarks about TQM at last
night's meeting indicated you have some real needs that my company may be able to help you
erase." The information you garner by listening at networking functions is invaluable
in forming a working relationship with a prospect.
Passing out business cards to anyone and everyone as if you were handing out flyers in
Times Square at rush hour will only guarantee that your cards are filed under
"W" for "waste" - except by those people from whom you never, ever
want to hear. Wait till the end of the conversation, till you've established a reason to
make further contact, before you exchange cards. Doing so enhances the value of your
business card exchange.
A basic rule of rank and status is that a person of much higher rank be the one to
request the card. Before you cry foul, think how often you've encountered senior
executives from major corporations who "just ran out of cards" or "forgot
to bring them"? Do you really think these people became captains of industry by not
having business cards? The truth is that they don't want to give you a card because they
know you'll harangue their secretaries for weeks trying to get through to them.
If you've been an interesting, interested listener the chances that corporate
executives will want you to call are greatly increased. Even if they don't give you a
business card, you certainly can remember their name and company for a few seconds after
the encounter until you have a chance to jot it down. A few well-placed phone calls the
next day should give you the person's exact title, office address and direct line.
Corporate executives are more likely to do business with you because of the effort you
made and the sincere interest you showed in them.
Take the focus off yourself at networking functions. Put it where it belongs, the other
person, and you will increase your chances for success at these functions. Stop attacking
corporate representatives with your sales pitches. When you spend more time building
contacts and relationships rather than frantically promoting yourself or your services,
attending networking functions becomes a more pleasurable experience for you and for
corporate executives. Who knows... if everyone practices these savvy networking tactics,
industry and association functions may once again be filled with the people consultants
really want to meet... potential clients!