By April 10, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

Networking Without Scaring Potential Clients Away

Networking Without Scaring Potential Clients Away

If you’re involved with an association where you want to network with potential clients, you’re making one more step towards increasing business. If you’ve become involved in the association as a volunteer, board member or elected official, you’ve even gone beyond most of your competitors.

In fact, for most associations, vendor members are an important and integral part of the association. Their memberships, sponsorships and other support is what enables the association to put on good events that are of interest and value to their non-vendor members.

Maximizing your Networking Value

So the next question is how you maximize your value from being involved and attending networking events. The simple reality is that your potential client doesn’t want to be ‘sold’ at association meetings and if you cross that line, you are actually less likely to get more business.

Some potential clients will avoid attending events or cluster together to fend off suppliers. They may have had a bad experience or they may be in a position or with a company that attracts a lot of attention from suppliers and want something different when they attend networking events. I’ve seen senior level managers inundated with suppliers who want face-time and to exchange cards simply because the manager has buying power.

You shouldn’t look at membership and attendance as a quick path to sales. Membership and involvement in an association is a long-term investment that increases your company’s visibility with clients in a positive, constructive way that a sales call simply can’t do for you.

Don’t start with a Sales Pitch

In many cases, the potential client won’t even have a need for your services when you talk to them at an association event. They already have someone providing services and the odds are their renewal or re-tender is a ways off. Trying to sell to them or even asking when their current contract is up when you first meet someone at an association meeting is a sure way to lose their interest. And if they are ready to buy, about to procure services or want to bring someone in right away, they are likely to let you know if they know who you are – without the sales pitch.

Awareness, trust and respect is what is important. When they have a need, they will know that you are a potential supplier to call on. Using an in-your-face approach during your association’s networking meetings will not be well received, so you need to start with awareness, then build trust and respect. Introduce yourself and your company name, making it clear what your services are, but not selling them. Then ask about them and strike up a conversation to begin the process of fostering a relationship.

Give something to Demonstrate your Value

If you want to go to the next step and build the trust and respect, show interest in them, their company and their issues. Instead of asking for their card or handing them one of yours, have some insightful information you can share with them. As long as it is relevant to their business and not a sales tool, ask if they would like you to send a link, magazine article, research paper, study or other relevant information to them. Of course, you need to actually have some insightful information to offer. It may be something you or your company have created, something you’ve seen from other sources, such as a magazine article or something from your own suppliers or other sources that is available for you to distribute, like information on how to select green products or other information about the client’s industry, news items or other relevant information, even if it isn’t directly related to your service or products. It must, however, be interesting and helpful to the potential client.

Then they are more likely to share their card with you. Even so, if you are a regular attendee of the association events, try to hold off until the next time you meet the individual to offer to send something to them, but be ready with something insightful to talk to them about so you can develop interest for what you have to offer above and beyond your product or service.

Leverage your membership by being involved

If you’ve chosen to become involved in the association, it’s even easier for you to gain visibility. As a committee member, board member or elected official, your name and company will be more prominent and you will have a great reason to circulate and talk to the other members at events. Just remember to keep the sales pitch out of it.

Take the long view to sales

By taking this approach, you will build your exposure to possible clients and build a reputation as a helpful, solutions oriented supplier who they want to interact with because they know they won’t get a sales pitch. Then, they are more likely to remember you when they need the services or products you have to offer.

About Michel Theriault

Michel is the founder of Success Fuel for Managers. He is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is also a contributor to Forbes and AllBusiness Experts . Michel is available for speaking engagements, training and consulting. Connect with him or send an email.

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