I received a business card from a networking event. I do what I always do, went to my CRM to add it to my contact list. I wanted to send them a "thank you for coming to our event" email. There was a problem. No last name. I have never, in my career as a sales person, seen the likes of this. I can usually catch someones first name because its usually simple. Bob, Frank, Susie, etc and this one was no different. A simple first name. I know they told me their last name, however I can't remember much less spell it. After hitting the ceiling about not knowing their last name, I thought, I will just look at their email address. Most of the time its first and last name (me excluded), and this is where I really shook my head. There was no email address...
I get emails all the time from clients, potential clients, and people who want me to buy something from them. What constantly amazes me is the lack of email signatures. I know for a fact that all email programs allow you to make an email signature with your name, rank, email address, phone number, Skype number, LinkedIn page, web page, blog address, and business address. Why then, dont people use them? It can't be because they are lazy. Not having one loses you business. After all, it is not always best to respond to an email with an email, especially when a topic is new, complicated or sensitive.
Its amazing when you have a target market how it changes everything you do. I realized a few weeks ago, some of the networking I was doing was not a good use of my time. The problem was not that there was a lack of good people there, but rather my target market wasn't there. It was time to adapt. All networking has an expiration date, but this was different. I looked at my sales philosophy, the one written on a sticky note behind my computer that tempers everything I now do, and realized I needed to change how I network. The sticky note reads:
I got to cross something off my bucket list this year, I was a pastor in a wedding. Two of my really close friends got married and I had the honor of introducing them as man and wife. It was one of the more unique things I will ever get to do. However, I was shocked because I realized that how easy it was to introduce the newly married couple, "I now pronounce you man and wife", however it can be so difficult to introduce yourself properly at networking events.
I just got off the phone with a friend of mine in the Hotel business in Omaha. It was an interesting conversation because she had lost a sale because her wall in the event space wasn't green. Not environmentally green, I mean she didn't get the job because her space wasn't the color green. She was trying to figure out why someone would choose an event space based on the color. I explained to her that someone had influenced the purchase process.
I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Cold calls used to work, then they didn't and now they work again. I used to agree with most people, that cold calls do not work. In fact, I established my sales career on referral networking. However, I have rediscovered the power of cold calling and how to do it effectively. Networking is still important, but now I don't have to wait around hoping for referrals.
When I started my sales career, my philosophy was to let anyone who needed my product buy from me. It worked. I was one of the more successful young salespeople and I exceeded my quota month after month. My target market was "anyone and everyone", and it seemed to be working. However, I was unknowingly limiting my future success.
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).
At any networking event there are people that you want to avoid because they cling to you, and prevent you from meeting new people. Usually an effective technique is excusing oneself to refill your drink or using the restroom. However, recently I was resought out after politely excusing myself. "What was i to do now?" I had gone to the restroom and I had a full plate of food. The solution, I handed them my business cards and told them to call me.
This was the perfect solution. By handing them my business card I was able to walk away and continue to network with other people. Most likely the person will never call me, because 99% of the time, people NEVER CALL. If he does call then he will probably be a lead and not a clinger. While I needed to continue to network, I can take the time in a one-to-one meeting if he is interested enough to continue the call.
Referrals from current clients are completely different from referrals from referral partners. Getting referrals from your current clients require a different conversation, because they already know you, your product, and the benefits. One of the best I know at having the conversation is a friend of mine named Amy. She has developed a system that allows her to receive 10+ referrals per week from her current clients.
I asked her how she was getting so many referrals, when most people are happy with one or two per week. She told me not to be satisfied with just one or two referrals. "I used to get only one or two per week until I started expecting three or four from each person. Unless you make it a point, they don't know how many they are supposed to give you. After setting expectations clients usually just keep providing names of people that I can help, until I stop them."