Do you have time to meet important contacts in your network and find new ones? As a business leader, the answer should be an immediate yes. But your schedule doesn't always match that ideal. Just look at your calendar right now: It's likely filled with meetings, presentations and conference calls. You don't have the space to fit in a trade show or conference to network with other leaders.
It could just be you're looking at the situation all wrong. Remember: If you can't find the time, you make it for yourself. You must learn to open up your schedule so you're available to network.
We've seen a lot of sales reps and managers say they'll go to more conferences and trade shows, but they tend to let it fall to the wayside. The reason is that when they do go, they're often unprepared for the events, and even if they secure a contact, they fail to follow up effectively. We found that the value you get out of these events is directly proportional to your preparation and follow-through.
"Professional networking requires organization, planning and scheduling."
Essentially, you'll want to organize how you will network, plan for it and then set aside time in your calendar. These three steps are necessary to making sure you get the contacts you need, and it requires a significant amount of time and resources. Having a virtual assistant can help you iron out these critical steps for you.
In the first step, you'll need to segment the events you frequent based on the professionals you wish to contact. Assess the type of events that these people go to, which you can find in a variety of sources, such as EventBrite or your local business association. From there, you need to identify the ones you want to attend, utilizing benchmarks based on events your want to go to and events that may not fit.
Scheduling the relationship
Once you have the events marked, you need to schedule accordingly. That doesn't just mean putting the event on your calendar. You need to also take time out of your day to actually prepare yourself so that you can face your prospects. Try to obtain an attendee list so you can review and see if you can find names that fit the type of people you want to network with. After including them into your CRM platform, you can go forward with meeting them at these events.
Of course, even talking to the right people requires some degree of preparation. Contactually suggests starting by finding the right questions to ask. You'll want to do research regarding the people you intend to meet and find out what their pain points are. You should base your questions around the bottlenecks that your business can help solve.
You should also take some notes here and there while you're at the event. This way, you're able to learn more about what your business means to potential investors and customers. At the same time, you can identify potential opportunities through not only direct conversations with potential customers but also chit-chat from people you randomly meet at the event. This strategy will put you well on your way to building a strong professional network with foresight and clarity.