Networking events are time consuming. They are often not as effective in marketing efforts as a professional would hope.
The variety of networking events can include industry, government contracting, general business training, education to name a few. Focusing on business and government contracting events can be a great way to expand a company’s potential client pool. How you comes across is a key component to how effective this type of marketing can be. There are a few specific types, let’s call them the Lost Souls, Superstars, Professors, Listeners and Matchmakers.
Now, take a moment and think back to the last networking or business event you were at, what were the first words you said to the people you met.
Did you blank when you tried to talk about your company?
Did you feel under-prepared to answer questions?
Did you introduce your name, company and certifications first?
Did you talk for a solid minute before stopping to listen?
Did you stare into blank eyes as you talked in detail about your company?
Did you ask about a contract they offered recently?
Did you know who you were going to talk to before you even put your shoes on?
Let’s see where you fit in the type of networkers and how can you improve the connections you build for your company.
Lost souls – You’ll recognize them by their “deer in the head lights” look as they wonder around. They stammer when they introduce themselves and rarely ask questions.
These unfortunate people have been thrown to the lions with little to no knowledge about the event and sometimes their company. They have no time or understanding to prepare and often get no benefit and provide poor marketing for their company.
Events are typically costly in both time and money. The way to make the Lost Soul more effective is to arm them with knowledge. If there is a last-minute replacement, make sure to give them the important points, who to talk to, what to talk to them about, and how to follow up.
Superstars – You’ll recognize them by the “My company is the best” script that they recite. They are great at telling what they do and how great they are. But if questioned, it is hard for them to go off script and make connections between problems and solutions.
These confident business representatives have read the handouts and drank the Kool Aid®. They can answer any question about what they offer. Seriously exuberant but miss making connections by not asking questions.
Preparing is the key here as well. Making a list of who to talk to and how your products/ services are the best answer to the issues faced by companies and agencies.
Professors – You’ll recognize them by their multisyllabic, highly detailed explanations of their very “unique” offerings. They are ever so willing to educate anyone on their products and services and usually what problems they fix. However, listening to someone else’s problem and making the connection to their solution is beyond them.
These industry experts know their work and are usually very passionate about it. They seem to not understand why everyone isn’t amazed by their marvel and forget how segmented purchasing offices can be.
Professors need to step back and evaluate their communication. How can you communicate your business to the laymen? Often buyers don’t have the same level of industry knowledge as the end user. You need to be able to build connections with all levels of expertise in your industry. As you are making connections, start general and work your way to details as you learn where the person you are talking to fits. Follow up is very important. Invite the person you met to loop in experts to expand your discussion on the more intricate details of your business offerings.
Listeners – You’ll recognize them by the pad and pen in their hand. After a brief greeting, they ask you about your needs and take notes.
They take the time to ask questions before introducing what they do and leave the certifications off or to the end of the discussion. They are focused on who they want to talk to at the event because they do their research to understand the problems that their products or services solve and make the connection to those they meet.
Follow up is a Listeners best next step.
Matchmakers – Like Listeners, ask questions before touting their wares. They are focused on connecting others. Listening to as many companies as possible then introducing or directing them together. Sometimes, Matchmakers come with a group of companies or act as a representative for a few companies but are at the event to make connections for others. They are typically a resources partner there to support the businesses and they keep their focus.
Make friends with Matchmakers. They maybe the lynch pin for building connections. The downside of Matchmaker, not building connections for your own business. Ensure that while you are helping others you are developing how your company might support or provide secondary service.
What we have found with our clients is that the most effective networkers are the Listeners. Not just because they offer solutions, but because they have done their homework. Some large events, like Alliance Northwest, offer preparation webinars to assist attendees with making the most of the event.
Here are a few quick tips:
Practice the language but stay flexible. Don’t get caught the scripted path.
Be prepared and do your research before the event
Focus your efforts on making connections with the right people
Follow up with your contacts
What type of networker are you? What have you found to be successful for your business?
Upcoming Events to practice your networking skills:
Alliance Northwest March 5 Puyallup, WA
Regional Contracting Forum April 8Tacoma, WA
Bridging Partnerships April 9 Kennewick, WA
Idaho Small Business Contracting Symposium April 9 Coeur d’Alene, ID
National 8(a) Association has many events
And MANY MANY more!!