Okay, show of hands.

Who else has gone to a networking event and felt like it was a complete waste of time?

You have to drive at least a half hour to the event, stay for two hours, and then drive another half hour back to the office.

And that’s when it hits you.

As your looking over the stack of business cards you’ve accumulated, you realize that you didn’t get a single lead.

Three hours is an awful long time to waste for a watered down cup of coffee and a stale bagel.

Below is a list of ten networking mistakes that CEO’s and entrepreneurs regularly make that hold them back from generating sales leads.

You Attend the Wrong Event

When I was running a marketing agency, I attended an event hosted by the American Marketing Association on how to use social media.

Surely, I would be able to make real solid connections that would eventually turn into sales.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Of the 50 attendees at the event, 45 of them were marketing consultants and agencies.

It turns out, that my customers, CEO’s of tech companies, do not attend networking events hosted by the American Marketing Association, no matter how much a social media seminar would have benefited them.

Your customers attend events in their own industry, not yours.  If you want to get sales leads at a networking event, the first step is to go where your ideal customers will be.

You don’t do Your Homework

Before you attend your next networking event, try to find out who will be attending.  Most of the time, you can call or email the host of the event and they will forward you a list of the companies who will be will be in attendance.

From that list, find four or five companies who can benefit from your product or services, and do a bit of background research on them.

For instance:

  • Who are their customers?
  • Have they been in the news?
  • What do they do?
  • What makes the company special?

This will go a long way to building a lasting relationship with a prospect.

Have a Bad Elevator Pitch

Usually, the first thing that someone will ask you after they’ve read your name tag is:  “What does your company do?”

This is your best chance to make a great impression, and 99% of people blow it.

They usually respond with something like: “We are an outsourced IT company”, or “We do book keeping services for small businesses.”

Instead, frame your response in a way that tells the person what they want to hear.

For instance, when a tech CEO asked me what I did, I responded with:

“I run a company that works with tech companies who want online sales leads in 30 days, guaranteed.”

This response is infinitely more interesting than “We are a social media marketing agency” because CEO really wants to hire a marketing agency.  But every CEO wants sales leads.

Determine what your customers want, then make that your elevator pitch.

You don’t Rehearse Your Elevator Pitch

The “content” of your elevator pitch is only half the battle.  In order for it to have the maximum effect, you need to perfect the delivery.

It should sound natural and confident and not like something that you dreamed up the way over.

When it appears like you have to think about what you say, your prospect will notice.  And the moment your prospect notices your uncertainty, you’ve lost the sale.

You Try to Meet Every One

You know that guy.

The one who runs from one person to the next, trying to sell his products or services to anyone who will give him the time of day.

From the second he opens his mouth, the only thing he cares about is what you can do for him.  And once he realizes that he can’t make a buck off of you, he abruptly leaves the conversation.

Don’t be that guy.

If you’ve done your homework, you will know exactly who you want to spend your time with.  Plant the seeds for a long relationship with those people.

You aren’t Helpful

When someone asks what you do, then give them your elevator pitch.

However, if you really want to endear yourself with someone, then talk about their business.

When you approach the prospect mention something specific about his business:

For instance: “Hey Bob, I saw that you were in the news for a new project you are working on.  How is that going?”

People love to talk about themselves, so let them.

Your next question to them is going to be:

“Have you guys thought about doing (Insert an intelligent suggestion here).”

Since you’ve come to the networking event prepared, you will already have this suggestion at the ready. Being this helpful will impress the hell out of the prospect and help you close a sale.

You Ignore the Host/Event Planner

Outside of being polite, there are two reasons why you should network with the host or the event planner.

  1. You gain instant credibility when the host introduces you to another member of the group.
  2. The host is usually the person who decides who speaks at the event.

When you speak at networking events and seminars you build enormous credibility.  If you speak at the event regularly, your prospects will come to you asking if they can hire you.

You Don’t Have an Information Packed Handout

If you’ve been speaking to the right person, been as helpful as possible, and nailed your elevator pitch, then there is a good chance that you have just acquired a highly qualified sales lead.

You won’t have the time to go over the specifics of your products and services.

Instead of giving the person a business card and a promise to follow up, have an information packed handout ready that contains more information about your business.

For instance, your handout might be a folder that contains:

  • Case studies
  • A complete list of products or services
  • A pamphlet that helps them achieve their goals.  We had a pamphlet called: “10 Items that Your Website Must Contain in order to Maximize Conversions”
  • Business card

This is an inexpensive way to make the prospect remember you.

Show up inconsistently

In order to maximize your ability to network, you have to show up to the event consistently and not just when you need to drum up business.

Many of the relationships and deals that you covet are going to take time to come to fruition.  Just remember to be patient, be helpful, and occasionally remind the prospect how your business can help them.

You Dress Inappropriately

Most events are business casual, but for some reason, there is always a person who wears a three piece suit, and another person who wears shorts and sandals.

If you aren’t 100% sure what the dress code is, make sure you ask the host or the event planner what the dress code is.

The Bottom Line

If networking were easy, then everyone would be walk out of every seminar and event they attend with more sales leads than they know what to do with.

But you and I both know that’s not the case.

Becoming a great networker is like everything else.  You have to work at it.

If you willing to do that, then you will have a steady stream of clients and customers beating down your door to do business with you.

To get started on the right track, I want you to do four things for me right now:

  1. Find at least one event this month where your ideal customers will be.
  2. Email the host and ask if he will send over a list of the companies who will be in attendance.
  3. Create a compelling elevator pitch.
  4. Build an information packed handout that you can leave with your ideal prospect.

That’s it.  Four simple tasks that should take you about an hour to complete, but will have a tremendous impact on your business.

So, what are you waiting for?

There is a sea of customers waiting to network with you.

Greg Digneo is the author of the blog Sales Leads in Thirty Days and is hosting a free webinar that shows CEO’s and entrepreneurs a step-by-step guide to generating 100 qualified prospects in 30 days.


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