I am amazed when I attend lunch & learn events and find the sales team standing over by the food, huddled together commiserating over lost deals, comp plan discrepancies, management issues, or a recent loss by their favorite sports team. What a waste! Not only does this look bad, it’s a waste of time.
When people show up to the event it’s time to network. You’re the host, responsible for making sure each attendee has a great time. If they are clients, you should be introducing them around to your team, building a stronger brand in their mind. But don’t stop there, reach out to people you don’t know. I have personally sat in these events as a prospect and remember being bored and alone. I might shuffle through a trade rag or check in on email, but I would much rather be engaged by the hosting company.
This is where it starts, but how do you transition from chatter to business? It’s a matter of value. What do you have that will help the visitor? Networking is not just exchanging cards – especially with executives. Give an executive your card and it will be in the trash hours from now. You’ll have their card, but when you call, they won’t really remember you or have a need. They might say something charming like, “Thanks for the invitation, it was informative…have you met with our IT people?” But this too is a waste of time.
Before your event ever begins you should be collecting great articles, putting together a study of some type, or writing a white paper. I often use my first book, The House & the Cloud. It’s unique, written to sales people (who I call on), and from what I hear, provides real value. When I meet someone at a trade show, such as the RSA show I attended this year, I offer them a free PDF copy of it (In fact it’s available on the right hand side bar of this blog page). You might say I am losing a $16.95 sales opportunity, but I’d much rather give someone something that has real value in hopes of engaging further in the near future. As Seth Godin says, “My enemy is obscurity.” And he’s right. A hand full of people will buy by book, but thousands will take it for free. And if it really does offer value, the door is open for further conversation. I’ve landed many workshops and keynotes as a result, and you could be doing the same, landing assessments and projects simply by offering some intellectual capital of your own, or something great written by someone else, but discovered by you. Stop exchanging cards with a promise of a sales call, and start collecting cards to follow up with something great. This is the start of a great follow-up program.
© 2011, David Stelzl