Good networkers typically collect between 3 to 5 business cards for every hour they invest at a networking event. It is important to have a system to process the business cards you collect at networking events, because while you might be able to process 3 to 5 business cards a day, anything over that requires a systematic way to keep up with connections until they become friends and clients.
Step 1: The first thing that I do is prioritize business cards based on the conversations that I have had with people. I start by throwing away the business cards of people that handed me their card, but that we failed to have a conversation. The reason that I throw those business cards out is because I don't know anything about that person and their business, and they choose not to take the time to learn anything about me and my business. For people that I did have a conversation with I write down details about that person in my CRM (see Step 2).
Step 2: The second thing I do with the business cards I collect is add each contact into my sales system. This includes adding them to CAN's Customer Relationship Management System (CRM), our newsletter, as well as connecting with them on LinkedIn. Adding them to CAN's CRM allows me to keep track of their contact information and any previous or future communication. Adding each contact to the CAN Newsletter allows me to keep in touch, unless they unsubscribe. We keep the CAN Newsletter simple, it includes links to our favorite articles from the previous 30 days, the top posts from the CAN blog, and occasionally updates about CAN's products, clients, and upcoming events. Connecting with contacts on LinkedIn allows me to make sure that other have my contact information ready when they need it, as well as learn about me from my resume and updates.
Step 3: The next day, I send each contact an email with an invitation for coffee or lunch. I try to include the details that I wrote down in step 1, especially where we met. I have found that having a conversation over food and drink works well to soften the callused wall that most people have. Also, everyone has to eat. The point of the first meeting is not to sell, but to qualify the other person by learning more about them and their business. You should ask them questions about themselves, their business and their goals. The only time that you should talk about you, your business and your goals, is if they specifically ask. However, most people ask, and this is step 4. This is what you have been practicing for...Ready...Go!!!
Step 4: One of the most effective ways to tell people about you, your company and your goals is to tell them a story. I have several stories that I often tell new people, and I customize which story that I tell someone based on what I learn in step 3. It is important to be cognizant of time, be wary if the person just isn't interested, and be sure to ask for another meeting if they are interested. I always leave knowing what the plan for contacting them again is. Sometimes, if the answer is no, it means put them on a future drip marketing campaign, if the answer was I would like to learn more, ask if they want called, or emailed, when, and at what time.
Step 5: Then after the conversations die down and you shake hands and leave, be sure to do one last thing. Send a thank you and a follow-up message about when you are contacting them next.
Using these basic steps you will find you are more confident at networking events, you will know what to do with the business cards you acquire, and you will do more business.
Now go find a networking event and collect more business cards. Until next week, Happy Hunting!