If you are in a business where personal relationships are important, there is nothing like networking to increase your pool of prospects.
Every week, in most communities, there are multiple opportunities to attend networking functions where there are new people to meet, exchange business cards and discover not only whether they fit your profile for an “ideal” client but with whom you can start an ongoing relationship.
If I were to do a survey, I imagine most people would say the most important networking skill is being able to deliver a powerful, effective, memorable introductory “elevator speech” - that one amazingly clever sentence that intrigues the new acquaintance.
Every bit of advice on networking I’ve ever seen starts and ends with the elevator speech. But realize that, if you are on an elevator, when the door opens, you go your separate ways and that isn’t the goal with networking. Yes, an effective opening remark is important, but it is only the tip of the networking iceberg.
While real opportunities exist at most networking events, only a small percentage of those attending leave with anything more than a small handful of business cards they then put in a box on their desk. Without the rest of the networking package, those business cards aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.
People successful at networking do more – much more. They follow up with the people they have met, at least with those they have identified as potential prospects. The really good ones have systemized the follow-up process so a well crafted elevator speech is just the front-end of their lead-generation machine.
That system starts with a “glad to meet you” note or email and continues with a relentless stream of ongoing content designed to intrigue, to interest, and eventually to lead to a meeting or a phone call. This results in a deeper relationship and, ultimately, a sale.
It is the follow-up that shows the people you meet what you have for them, demonstrates your competitive advantages and eventually converts a casual relationship into a client relationship.