If you're like
most sales professionals, you probably spend much of the day
keeping your existing customers happy. Since there's often not
much time left to drum up new business, it's essential to make
the most of your precious networking hours ó or even
Fortunately, you probably attend community functions
where you rub elbows with potential customers. With a smart
system for handling these opportunities, you can
increase the chances of meeting new prospects.
The next time
you're invited to a charity event or other
professional gathering, try this four-step plan and make
your connections pay off:
- Try to meet six new people,
rather than standing around with people you know. Go right
up to strangers and introduce yourself: Many people are shy
and looking for someone to help them feel comfortable.
Ask about the person's company, position, educational
background and interest in the sponsoring organization.
- When people ask
what you do, donít just say, "I'm a sales rep" or "I own a
computer company." Create a brief one-sentence description
that gives value for your clients. For example, "I'm a
software sales specialist who helps small companies become
- After five or ten
minutes, politely say good-bye. Ask for your new
acquaintance's business card. Mention that you periodically
send useful information. If you uncover a pressing issue,
request permission to call. Move on graciously by saying,
"It was nice to meet you" and approach the next prospect.
- When you return to the
office, enter the business cards into your database of
potential clients or customers. Include these contacts when
mailing marketing material and send any information that
highlights your relevant expertise.
For top candidates, send a follow-up e-mail or
hand-written note letting them know you enjoyed meeting
them. Then try to set up a meeting.
Be proactive: This four-step plan lets you turn
small talk into a wide circle of valuable customers and