Small business entrepreneurs are focusing, as they always have, on how to close more sales. Unbelievably, there are still millions of cold calls being made every hour of every day, despite how ineffective and soul-crushing they are for the dialers (and annoying to the recipients!). As business people, we're becoming more adept at networking, and understanding that going to a networking event is not a race so see who can give out the most business cards. The result you actually want from a networking event is to be able to set up the most appointments relative to the number of people you met at the event.
Here are some tips for improving your networking meeting-to-appointment closing ratio.
- Focus on them, not you. If all you do is talk about yourself, you'll bore people no matter how interesting you really are. Focus on the other person in the conversation, and make notes on their business card about something interesting or personal you can use later.
- Don't worry about your elevator speech. We are all conditioned to think we need to have our canned pitch perfected. We don't. We need to have our hearing and listening perfected. It may not be exciting to say, "I'm a financial planner" or "I'm a pediatric dentist" when you could say something much more flowery. But if you're a dentist who specializes in treating kids, just say that, and ask about the other peoples' kids. That's a subject no one will be shy to respond to.
- Take action within a week: If you go to an event, take action on people you met within a week so you don't let the momentum fade. But wait a few days before reaching out to them. If you call the very next day (unless someone specifically asked you to) you'll seem desperate.
- Focus on getting an appointment. If you're a financial advisor ("It was nice to see you on the golf course the other day. Some other club members who are clients of mine were very interested in our quarterly market update conference call, so I thought I'd invite you to listen in to the next one"); an elder-care attorney ("A lot of people from the networking event we went to are dealing with elder care issues with their parents. Would you like to come in for a free consultation?"); a car dealer ("I saw you were driving a 2004 Ford. We have a zero percent APR financing offer until the end of the month. Would you like to stop by for a test drive?"); a commercial banker ("I was in your store last week and loved your merchandise. Can I stop by to see what your expansion plans are and if we can help?"); and many other categories.
- One technique to avoid: Take any of the above examples and change them to, "Would next Tuesday be a good time for you to come in and...." That's called the "presumptive close." And that's when most of us hang up the phone. Be respectful enough of your prospect to make an invitation without insinuating yourself into their calendar.
- Ask for permission to place someone on your email list: When you meet someone, ask for permission to add them to your email list. Then do so and provide useful information from time to time using a reliable email marketing service. Always make it possible for someone to instantly unsubcribe.