Networking at main events
HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM YOUR TIME, ENERGY AND MONEY
As a franchisor I’m sure you are familiar with networking and the importance of it among your peers (fellow franchisors), suppliers, associates and new contacts. You encourage your franchisees to participate in regular networking events, big or small, as part of their local area marketing. So how do you get the most from your time, energy and money when networking at events, especially big events? Regardless of what size event you are going to, it’s important you know how to make the most of the event to get a good return of your time, energy and money. Here’s a Simple Networking Formula that will give you the greatest chance of success:
1. Decide why & choose your event strategically. It is simply impossible to be at every event running on every single day of the year, so it’s important to choose the events you attend wisely, ensuring the event you choose is in alignment with what you want to achieve. In other words, you have to know why you want to attend the event and what you want to get out of it. The clearer you are on why you are going, the more chance you have of achieving it. Key outcomes may include: gain more knowledge; attract new prospects; more than likely outcomes will include attract new partners, colleagues and referral partners
2. Plan to connect with a certain number of people. Have quality conversations rather than quantity. If there are 50 people at the event, don’t expect to speak to all of them. Be content with a quality conversation with five to seven people who the next day will look at your card and remember you and what you spoke about, and more importantly remember you the next time they see you. If it’s a larger event and your objective is to connect with a lot more then be sure you have a plan on how you will connect with people, and know when it’s the right time to move onto the next person. When attending a big event such as a conference, be and stay organised and participate in as much as you can while at the event. Especially at a multi-day conference, people want to learn, grow and network so they’ll tend to be more open and approachable, ready to talk about their businesses but also ready to find out more about you.
3. Take plenty of business cards. Bring more than you think you will need, it’s better to have some extra than to run out. I like to write something on the card to help me remember something about the person I have just connected with. You will find it useful when you go to follow up with them.
4. Don’t sell your product or services at the event. Rather if a person expresses interest, suggest that you phone them to discuss further.
5. Prep your elevator pitch. You always want to be ready with a confident and compelling answer to the question “What do you do?” If you are a larger well known brand then most will have an assumption or knowing of what you do. As a smaller franchisor there may be some that are not familiar with what it is you do and offer to the marketplace so it’s always a good idea to have an elevator pitch ready. Rather than answering the question of what do you do with… “I’m a lawyer,” or “We sell burgers,” it’s always best to follow the elevator pitch formula which enables you to connect with the person you are talking to and flow with your response so that it allows the conversation to continue rather than stop dead in its tracks after you reply with I’m a…
The easiest way to create an elevator pitch is when someone says: “What do you do?” you simply reply with… “Do you know how… (what follows is usually the problem in the marketplace your product or service solves) then you follow with… “What we do is… (and then you complete this with your solution”) of course if you only have a brief 10 or 20 seconds to answer the “what do you do” question then simply summarise what you created in the above into one short sentence.
Here’s our example for Vision Alliance…. when asked what do you do? We would reply with… “Do you know how most business owners, franchisors and franchisees are struggling to increase sales and profits, build more momentum and simply get more out of their business and their life, no matter what more means to them… well, what we do is… we work as an extension of your team putting programs in place to help you maximise your potential, enabling you to get more out of business, and more out of life.”
Our ten second snapshot version would be either… “We help business owners maximise their potential,” or “We are in the business of building people and building businesses.”
Your aim with any length of elevator pitch is to lead into the other person asking… how do you do that? Rather than having them say “oh ok i get it” and making their own assumptions about you.
6. Put a follow up system in place. I’m guessing some of you will have a great follow up strategy / system in place and some will not. It’s always a great idea to have a follow up strategy in place to ensure you know exactly what your next steps will be then following up the individual. You may end up creating three different types of follow up systems. 1) for prospects, 2) for partners, 3) associates, peers and colleagues. Remember to incorporate a combination of email, phone follow up, social media using LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or send out cards.
7. The best networkers are the best listeners. Anyone will speak to you for ten minutes if you are not speaking about yourself.
SUCCESS IS ALWAYS IN THE FOLLOW THROUGH
Being a great networker is just the beginning to successful networking. As the saying goes… “Success is always in the follow through.” Therefore it is equally, if not more, important to follow up with the people you have recently connected with. Here’s a quick five step plan to support you in becoming a successful networker.
1. Make Contact. 97 per cent of people who ask for my card never do anything with it. If your initial aim was to build new relationships and you want to drive the relationship forward, YOU have to take the action. For me, a followup email, rather than a phone call, is one of my favorite ways to reconnect with the person and continue the conversation. Another effective way is to send a LinkedIn invitation. Either way, the person can reply back at a time that’s convenient for them. Following the next four steps, you’ll increase your chances of a response.
2. Jog their memory. It’s a good idea to reference your initial meeting so they remember who you are within the first sentence or two of the email. Even better is to show that you were a good listener by mentioning something they talked about. For example: “Jim, I enjoyed meeting you at the Chamber of Commerce networking event last Thursday, and hearing about the successes you’ve been having this month with your new product launch…”
3. Connect the dots. Next, say why you think it makes sense to continue the conversation. Do you have some ideas to offer, some resources or connections? Do you see some natural synergies and think there may be ways to work together for mutual benefit?
4. Propose a low-barrier next step. Acknowledging most business people are time poor, rather than dive into a face to face meeting as the very next follow up, perhaps suggest a 15-30 minute phone call which is a lower barrier for both parties and to be honest can be just as effective if you have a clear agenda and process for the conversation.
5. Make it balanced. Be sure to position this next step as a way to get to know each other’s businesses and goals, and uncover synergies between the two of you. That way, the other person will feel there will be something in it for them and it’s not so one sided.
Tania Allen is the founder of Vision Alliance and author of Franchise Profits, Essential Telephone Skills and the soon to be released book Bounce Forward & Breakthrough. Vision Alliance is a franchise coaching & consulting firm delivering holistic solutions to both franchisees and franchisors.
If you would like some more information or support in this area contact Tania Allen at:
Phone: 1300 76 49 20 or 0419481203
Register for free webinars at: webinars.vision-alliance.com