10 Mistakes that Cost You Sales Leads at Networking Events : Under30CEO 10 Mistakes that Cost You Sales Leads at Networking Events : Under30CEO
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10 Mistakes that Cost You Sales Leads at Networking Events

| April 9, 2012 | 21 Comments

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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Category: Finding Customers, Startup Advice

  • Asmith

    The “Elevator Pitch” or “30 second commercial” is so so important. I’m glad you highlighted it. Many companies aren’t able to effectively communicate what they do and how they do it. Delivering a consistent brand message is critical.  You’ve got about 30 seconds to create a first impression and most of the time, I find that people can not communicate their brand.

  • http://www.kathycondon.info/blog Kathy Condon

    Greg, my belief a networking event is not the place to hand out a packet. A first meeting should be about getting to know the person–not giving out information about your business. A contact card is sufficient for first meeting. Then after you met the person send them a handwritten note, include your contact card, and suggest that you get together for coffee.

    Another thought….Is the cost of printing brochures worth it. My belief it is not–that’s what a website is for–of course, your website address is on your contact card. 

  • Greg Digneo

    Hey Kathy,

    Thanks for the comment.

    What I had found was that after we introduced ourselves and the person asked what I did, they seemed to want more information about our marketing system.  

    The inevitable follow up questions were: “we tried to blog, but could never get readers.  How do you get readers? ” or “Are you guys doing Twitter or Facebook?”  or “We sell XYZ product and that’s quite expensive/cheap/complex/etc, have you ever worked with companies like this?”

    And the first few times this happened, I wound up spending the entire networking event talking to this one person.  Not to mention, it’s just a lot of information to handle in such a short amount of time.  So, we made an information packet that showed our marketing process, how we do what we do, etc.

    This also worked to our advantage because it made scheduling a follow up very easy.  When they have more questions than you have time to answer, there is a built in excuse to meet again.

    I am not saying this is the only way, but it was the way that worked best for us.

    Greg

  • http://www.CassiusBlueConsulting.com Brandi Starr

    I agree Kathy, having marketing materials at a networking event tells me that you came to “sell”. What has worked very well for me is having electronic resources available that I can send. I keep a list of links by topic in a note in Evernote if I am talking to someone and they say they are struggling with a particular issue or are in need of a specific service I simply pull out my phone and say “let me email you X, right now” and then plan to follow up with them once they should have had time to read it. It gets the right information in their virtual hands right away without me hauling around a bunch of material (or seeming like I came to sell to people). On a few occasions I have had people pull up the information and read it from their phone or iPad and find me later during the event to discuss further. But in most cases they reach out to me the next day or I follow up a few days later. 

  • http://www.CassiusBlueConsulting.com Brandi Starr

    I agree Kathy, having marketing materials at a networking event tells me that you came to “sell”. What has worked very well for me is having electronic resources available that I can send. I keep a list of links by topic in a note in Evernote if I am talking to someone and they say they are struggling with a particular issue or are in need of a specific service I simply pull out my phone and say “let me email you X, right now” and then plan to follow up with them once they should have had time to read it. It gets the right information in their virtual hands right away without me hauling around a bunch of material (or seeming like I came to sell to people). On a few occasions I have had people pull up the information and read it from their phone or iPad and find me later during the event to discuss further. But in most cases they reach out to me the next day or I follow up a few days later. 

  • http://www.CassiusBlueConsulting.com Brandi Starr

    Great post! Attending the wrong events is a mistake many people make and quickly become frustrated with networking. Industry events in your own industry have value but not for finding customers.

  • Greg Digneo

    Hi Brandy,

    I pretty much do the same thing, except I prefer to just hand out the physical packet.  

    If we are speaking and they are asking follow up questions and they are struggling with a particular issue or want a lot more information, then and only then do I hand them the info packet.

    The key is to create an elevator pitch compelling enough to get them to ask more questions.

    Thanks for the comment and continuing the discussion.

    Greg

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivanbud IVan Budimir

    I’d love to be able to claim this as my idea, but a friend of mine (and a very savvy business owner) has taken this to a whole new level:

    He basically has a shwack of different elevator pitches – not just one. He also carries 5 different business cards in his pockets – each having a different benefit on it.

    He’ll “feel out” the person he’s talking to and give out the matching elevator pitch, followed by the right card for the occasion.

    I’m waiting for my new cards as I write this, of course =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivanbud IVan Budimir

    I’d love to be able to claim this as my idea, but a friend of mine (and a very savvy business owner) has taken this to a whole new level:

    He basically has a shwack of different elevator pitches – not just one. He also carries 5 different business cards in his pockets – each having a different benefit on it.

    He’ll “feel out” the person he’s talking to and give out the matching elevator pitch, followed by the right card for the occasion.

    I’m waiting for my new cards as I write this, of course =)

  • Greg Digneo

    Ivan,

    That’s a really good idea.  The only word of caution is, if his elevator pitch varies too wildly, then he might have five different businesses.

  • Greg Digneo

    Ivan,

    That’s a really good idea.  The only word of caution is, if his elevator pitch varies too wildly, then he might have five different businesses.

  • Greg Digneo

    Ivan,

    That’s a really good idea.  The only word of caution is, if his elevator pitch varies too wildly, then he might have five different businesses.

  • Greg Digneo

    Ivan,

    That’s a really good idea.  The only word of caution is, if his elevator pitch varies too wildly, then he might have five different businesses.

  • Greg Digneo

    Ivan,

    That’s a really good idea.  The only word of caution is, if his elevator pitch varies too wildly, then he might have five different businesses.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Somewhere I read that “Marketing takes a day to learn.  Unfortunately it takes a lifetime to master.” ~ Phil Kolter So, keep on working and one day the hard work will pay off…

  • Paulsanders

    Well done very sound advice

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Justin-Bilyj/100000443046238 Justin Bilyj

    Great Ideas..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Justin-Bilyj/100000443046238 Justin Bilyj

    Great Ideas..

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