Finding new business is a constant focus for Company owners. Depending on your deliverables and/or services, you cannot rely on repeat business alone to keep sales coming in. Competition is tough and continuously snapping at our heels, so to keep the sales pipeline filled up is a goal for everyone in the Company to focus on, not just the Sales Team.
One of the things the Middle East is great at is networking – everyone seems to know someone in this region and so this allows you to focus your networking skills to get new connections working for you. To do this, it’s very important that you have a clear and concise message that is easily understood and explained.
Networking isn’t for everyone, if you are not comfortable meeting new people then attending a network meeting can feel like the worst task anyone can ask you to do. But once you make the effort, the contacts you make can give your business a huge boost. By following a few simple rules, networking may not be as bad as you think.
There are many networking events, so choose right. Once you start looking, there are so many events happening daily, you could attend meetings from breakfast to cocktails. Remember your time is money, spending all day and night at networking events is not a good use of your time.
Some of the networking groups require you to join for a year and pay a membership fee, some do not. Before you commit to a year’s membership, make sure you have attended as a guest first to ensure this is the right group for you. Be very focused on the people attending the group, what businesses do they represent? Can you provide them with leads to help their business? Do you believe they are able to provide you with relevant leads and referrals? Is your target market represented in the room?
Here are some simple tips on choosing the right network meeting for you:
- Leverage off your nationality – nationalities tend to try and help each other, so does your local embassy have a business group or network meeting?
- There are many women only network groups, having a representative attending these can gain many leads
- Not all network meetings require membership, there are guest meetings or events open to non-members, go to these to see if the meeting feels right for you to join
- Go with your gut feel, if it a group doesn’t feel right then it’s likely not to be right, move on and try another group
- Be very clear of the costs involved and take everything into account – the annual membership, the weekly costs (food and drink), the one to ones you need to have to deepen your understanding on Company profiles, the amount of time (your hourly cost) you need to give. Once you have an annual cost, be clear on how much of your products / deliverables / services you need to convert in order to make the investment cost neutral.
- Network meetings are not meant to be places you go to just to make friends (although there are network meetings that concentrate on just this), these are business network meetings and need to bring business into your Company.
- You need to attend consistently, week in week out. This allows for full understanding of your business and shows your commitment to the group.
- Make the most of the meeting, make sure you have a “referral ask”, a key referral you are looking for, and be very specific. If you know the name of the person you need to speak to, then ask the group for that specific persons contact details.
Have a great elevator pitch - At most network meetings, either weekly group meetings or speed networking events, you have a very short time to introduce your Company, and you may be the 50th person to do this if the meeting has a large number of members. In your 20 or 30 seconds pitch, be concise and memorable. How often have you heard someone’s elevator pitch 20 times over the months and still have no idea what they do? I am a member of a network group where there are members that I have seen for over a year, and even had a one to one with and yet I still have no idea what their Company does or how I could help them with leads.
If your Company does many things, then concentrate on only one service in your elevator pitch, get to the point and inject something memorable if you can. In a sea of many, you need to be the memorable fish that people remember and can understand what it is you do.
One to ones – To broaden your understanding of your contacts businesses and to help their understanding, once you have made contacts at networking events, then you need to follow up with one to one meetings. Choose well here, focus your time on those contacts that you believe you can help as well as gaining help and referrals for them. It should be a two-way conversation, with both of you gaining from the connection. Although you have more time at this meeting to explain your Company, still, keep the message simple and clear, make sure that once the meeting ends you are confident that they are clear in the service you provide.
Leave the meeting understanding clearly what a good referral sounds like for both of you, this allows you both to listen out at other network meetings for asks from the group.
Finally, make sure you are not the only one talking, this is a one to one meeting, you both should have equal time to speak. If the person you are meeting is taking over the conversation, stand your ground a make sure you have time to get your message over as well.
Brochures and handouts – paper brochures may feel a little outdated, however are still relevant with many Companies expecting something to be left behind after a sales visit for their future reference.
If you have a brochure, how effective is the message? Who wrote it? Can someone who has no idea about your services understand what it is your Company does? Brochures are a great aid memoir for a Company to go back to after meeting you, but if they are written by someone with an in-depth knowledge of your business and / or the services you offer, they are unlikely to be written in layman terms.
Before spending time and money on large print runs, ask someone who has no understanding of your Company to read them and explain back to you what they have understood your Company does. If they are way off the mark, then it’s back to the writing table for you.
These are just a few ideas to help you expand your business contacts. I hope they are helpful.