Let’s face it; the likelihood of obtaining clients by just attending a networking event is not very good. You have to engage them in an effective way. If you are too social, they will just consider you a friend and not necessarily someone with whom they should collaborate in business. If you are strictly business, it will put people off.
At conferences, instead of just standing in front of a booth and waiting for people to approach me, I actually attend the sessions; I meet the people sitting around me. I listen to the information and take notes. By listening, I jot down the information related to my business. Next, I formulate a question that will allow everyone in that room to look at me as a potential trusted expert.
For example, many sessions feature question and answer portions. We always try to engage them with compelling questions that will guide people to us for further conversation. For instance, in one question and answer session with the commissioners, I submitted the question, “Have you ever run into difficulty communicating through interpreters with non-English speaking claimants? How would you like to see those issues resolved?”
I could not have asked for a better answer. They said to over a hundred lawyers in the room, “Listen this is a real problem! We are sick and tired of bad interpreters or family members. We have a list of quality certified interpreters that we prefer and know that they do a great job! We will be happy to share with you our list.” The association president (also an attorney) approached me and said, “Hey Alfonso, I bet I know who submitted that question! Good one Jeff!” Now, with that type of intentional engagement, who do you think many of our SCWCEA (South Carolina Workers Compensation Education Association) tribe members call when they need an interpreter, especially the lawyers?
Let’s just say you have already built a network of potential clients but you don’t want to seem aggressive. You have networked with them for years, but they just don’t seem to contact you. I understand that you don’t want to come off as nervy, but how has that been working for you so far?
A nice way to do this is to say to your clan member, “I really enjoy our conversations. Would you be willing to meet with me just once to talk about what my business offers and see if there might be a fit? If we discover that there is no fit, no worries, we can still stay friends.” I can guarantee you that if you have been interacting with that person, he will be happy to give you that one meeting. It isn’t forceful if you have known someone for a while and you ask them to meet. Now you are finally doing something useful with all that networking you’ve been doing all that time. Try that activity with everyone that makes sense; odds are you will develop some great new clients.
In a previous blog, we discussed about how to build tribes with intentionality. As you can see, I call it tribe building because the groups you form or to which you belong make sense for your business. It probably doesn’t require a big budget, but it does require some time and nurturing. If done right, this type of marketing can have a huge payoff.
We also considered how to steer the conversation to a sales call. Asking compelling questions at events can draw people to us for further conversations. Sponsoring a meeting and speaking in public can be another. Finally, simply ask a potential client with whom we have engaged socially for a cup of coffee to talk about possible business relationship.
These are the activities that turn networking from a social activity to a productive business activity. Those are the actions that make the transition from social interaction to sales call. Once you have the sales call, what is next? Sales will be the subject of the next blog.