A business acquaintance turned to me during a recent event in the area and asked, “why are you here?”
Based on his knowledge of Overit as a creative marketing and communications firm, he didn’t see this breakfast presentation on green energy as a logical place for us to be. But as I looked around the room and took in the crowd, I knew it was in fact the PERFECT place for us to be—void of competition but full of potential business.
This is an exciting time for the marketing of businesses and individuals. There are an ever-growing abundance of tools and avenues that help us broadcast our message and make connections. My guess is you already know this. You don’t need another blog post to tell you.
But while mobile devices and tablets have created easier ways to communicate with clients and prospects, they haven’t eliminated the need for face-to-face communication. We may be able to more easily start relationships using online channels, but there’s something to be said about shaking a hand or making small talk.
You strengthen relationships when you take them offline. You become memorable.
So how can you nurture sales in an increasingly online world?
Get Out There
I rarely attend events for the speaker. I attend based on the people I have the potential to meet and interact with. Certain event topics bring out people from specific industries, as did this green energy event. I have experience in this industry, plus, one of our clients was a sponsor. It made sense to be there. This philosophy also works for networking events without a speaker or presentation—I make my choice based on the organization hosting the event and the people I’ll have the opportunity to meet.
Build Trust Through Simple Gestures
Take a moment and think of the way you’ve met some of your most recent clients and professional acquaintances. There’s apt to be a personal connection there somewhere—either through an introduction or a face-to-face meeting. If you work on a national level where you don’t often see contacts in person, you’ve probably spoken to them on the phone or via Skype or FaceTime.
Shaking a hand, sharing a joke and making small talk are all avenues to building a rapport and ways that we get to know each other better. These simple gestures are early steps in developing trust—the more we get to know people and share personal experiences, the easier the road to creating a level of trust.
This faith in you and your company, not price, is the more stable road to sustainable professional relationships.
Don’t “Go It Alone”
I’m not the type of person who can go into a room and walk up to a stranger with a smile and an outstretched hand. [You may not be either.] So I have my own methods for meeting new contacts.
First, in choosing the right place to be (see above), I’ve already increased my odds I’ll know someone else in the room. Catching up with old colleagues, contacts and clients are great ways to get introduced to new prospects.
If the thought of showing up solo still makes your palms sweat, then implement the “Iceman” strategy.
No one says you can’t bring your own personal wingman. With this strategy, you can work off each other’s contacts for introductions and keep each other company in between conquering the event. Just don’t hang out alone at a table or against the wall—you’ll leave without anything to follow-up on (more on that later)…or self-esteem.
Go Where your Clients Go
Happy clients also make excellent wingmen.
While showing support for your client events and sponsorships is a good idea on its own, your clients will appreciate your attendance and will be happy to make an introduction or two. There’s a good chance your client’s other partners and vendors would make good prospects for your business, and a personal introduction will yield a better result than one by email or LinkedIn.
Follow-up (I warned you that was coming)
So, you leave a breakfast seminar or a networking mixer with a few cards and a couple of names. Now what do you do?
You act on it.
How you act will be based on your gut:
- What was the extent of your conversation?
- Was it simply small talk or was there a discussion about potential work?
- Did a friend or client introduce you?
If there’s a real prospect, move on it. And quickly. Email a quick note to follow-up. Or, if you want to really blow their mind, go super old school and send them a note. In the mail (yes, it still exists).
You’ll also want to follow them on Twitter or invite them to connect on LinkedIn to encourage them to keep the conversation open (and to make it easier for you to keep tabs on them). Just don’t do that while still sitting at the table with them. Creepy, dude.
Use All Your Tools
When it’s your job to build connections, you can’t rely on just one method. Just like any other campaign, you want to take advantage of all the different tools out there to help you be successful. But face-time needs to be part of that mix.
The New Year is upon us. Why not make a resolution to be more out there in 2013?
Find some events to attend, grab a wingman, shake some hands and tell a few stories. Every person you meet is a chance to reinforce your brand and engage with your community.
And there’s no telling where that will lead.