If you are looking for a quick fix to increasing your sales funnel, then networking is not for you. When most people think of networking, they automatically think the focus is to go and “sell” themselves and their business. If this is you, then you need to rethink.
The goal of networking is to build trusting and long lasting relationships which over time will definitely will increase sales for your business, but probably not in the way you first thought. If you watch someone at their first networking event, they are usually the person who has a stack full of business cards, marketing materials, and maybe their product if they can carry it. They will also be the one up in your face telling you what they do and thinking if you need their product or service – surely you will call them because now they have given you all of their materials. Little do they know, those materials will find their way to the nearest trash can that is passed on the way out.
In many cases, the individuals that you meet at a networking event will not end up being your direct customer, but will end up adding more value than any acquisition of a single customer. The best people to meet at a networking event are those that will end up providing referrals to your business. They will do so because they have built a trusting relationship with you so they in turn trust that you will provide quality products and services to those they refer to your business. This type of sale is worth its weight in gold because it is qualified and comes with an instant stamp of approval from the referring party.
Another type of valuable networking relationship is a partnership that you forge with those that provide complimentary products and services. This type of relationship is a win/win for both companies because overtime business will go back and forth between the businesses.
This is not to say you will not obtain any direct customers from networking, but if this is the reason you joined and you are expecting a quick turnaround, then you should definitely look for another way to generate leads. If this was the primary goal, then it would most likely not be a cost effective one. Once you sell to someone, unless you have a product or service that has a recurring revenue model – this is a one-time sale most likely and then what? If you are spending a few hundred dollars a year to belong to a group, what you really want is to cast the widest net and this is through referral business, as it is repeat and ongoing business.
I have been networking steadily for the last year and I find now this is really starting to pay off. I belong to a Board of Trade and another Area Networking Group. I am joining a Local Networking Group in my community and try different types of networking events on a regular basis. You CAN increase your sales through networking – but is not something to try for the impatient.
If you are new to networking or are considering networking, here are some tips to keep in mind.
RK Fischer & Associates