If you want to learn how not to make new contacts, go forth and network.

In the past, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to network as the firms I worked for had fantastic reputations for delivery and we rarely needed brand new clients to maintain our business.

Fast forward two years and I had just joined Eleven (formerly  GTCreate) as the Client Services Director who at the time, had very little presence in a busy marketplace. So I did what any else would do, went networking. I tried to be pretty picky to start off with but soon you find that networking is purely a numbers game. The more people you meet, the higher the chance one will remember you weeks later and get in touch.

But this isn’t a post about networking, I believe it has a place, but for meeting brand new contacts and making a memorable and positive impression on them, I personally see better results spending an hour or two prospecting and engaging on social media.

The one thing that did bother me about networking is that in order for it to be worthwhile, you need to be good at it. Obvious isn’t it.

Last time I attended a networking event I overheard an introduction which went like this;

Person A: Sorry I haven’t even asked, what do you do?

Person B: That’s OK, I work for a XXXX and we help people be more successful and make them money by doing XXXX for them.

Now while that may seem OK for most people, for those who really want to make a positive and lasting impression, it’s not.

The one thing that did bother me about networking is that in order for it to be worthwhile, you need to be good at it. Obvious isn’t it.— Duncan Dibble

There are a lot of things that went wrong in that conversation; good salespeople don’t actually speak like they are in Glengarry Glen Ross.  The main thing to remember is that prospects aren’t interested in what you can give them or what your products or services can do for them. People are interested in how you can solve their problems.

The main message that you should be trying to convey in an introduction is how you are able to solve relevant problems for people just like the person you are talking to.

Sounds too complex to shoehorn into an introduction, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s incredibly easy if you talk about your business/product in this order;

  1. Audience – People want to know that you recognise and understand them. You let them know immediately that your message is for someone like them. “I work with … “
  2. Problems or Aspirations – Next you want to talk about the problems, challenges, issues and predicaments they are facing. This shows you understand them and can relate to them. People naturally want to know how you can help. ” … who have XYZ problems … “
  3. Outcome – The next thing people want to know is what ultimate outcome they’ll get from you. This is the mirror image of the problem. They want to be assured you can actually help. “Our clients say the main thing they get from us is … “ Don’t get this confused with outputs.
  4. Value – Next people want to know more about that outcome. They want to know the various benefits they can expect to receive. “And some of the key benefits they receive are … “
  5. Evidence – After people have heard your outcomes and value they want some evidence. “Have you done this before with people like me?” The best way to give evidence is by telling success stories. “A client we worked with recently had a similar issue … “
  6. Offer – Finally, after you’ve gotten this far, you need to make an offer for something. People at this point want any more information about your business. “I am happy to chat further over a coffee”

So let’s revisit that conversation and see how it should have gone;

Person A: Sorry I haven’t even asked, what do you do?

Person B: That’s OK, I work with sales directors who know their businesses should be doing more to generate leads online, but don’t know how. My clients say they wish they had invested in online lead generation much earlier because of it’s exceptional ROI. They are getting three times as many leads than other channels for the same investment. X Company never used to leverage digital before but since working with us they have grown dramatically and their sales team are busier than ever. I’ve actually developed a case study on it, I can send it to you if you’d like?

It’s important to remember that networking, specifically introductions are nothing more than opportunities to show people how interesting you are. Believe me, if you can talk about solving others problems, you will be very interesting.

All you want is them to be interested enough to move to the next step so you can get an appointment, meeting, coffee etc.