After doing a business expo yesterday, collecting business cards, meeting people who came over to our paid table to sell us their stuff (that’s fodder for another blog) we got ready to do follow up. An important part of networking, but not the topic of this blog.
This blog is about building relationships. Build a relationship with someone before you sell them. Build a relationship, build trust, get to know someone, their needs, before you start selling them. Because until you know what someone wants or needs, you are just selling them junk.
When you meet someone at a networking event, it is great to send a follow up saying “it was nice to meet you.” It is OK to schedule a future coffee meetup to get to know each other. A first date if you will. It is not OK to immediately start selling them. That’s a marriage proposal, or at the very least it’s an engagement ring.
After attending a great event, we got this email. “It was great to connect with you yesterday at the Event and learn about your business. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. As a small business owner, events like these are incredibly beneficial to building a quality network.” This is a great email. Maybe set up time for a phone call; a get to know you cup of coffee; a way to build a relationship. But, the next paragraph is where she lost it.
“I want to let you know about an offer My Company is currently running. We are giving a 20% discount for anyone who holds an event with us before December 1st (hint: now’s the time to get started on your Fall events).”
Who are you and what is your company about? Do you even know me or what my needs are? Nope, not appropriate on our first date.
“Don’t be shy – share this email with everyone you know and they’ll get the same great deal.”
Here is the problem with asking me for a referral at this point…I don’t know anything about your company. If I Google you right now, do you have good reviews or lousy ones? Remember that your reputation is on the line whenever you recommend a business to anyone from your Aunt Rose to your best customer. Be careful who you recommend because if you recommend someone you know nothing about, if the business turns out to be lousy and you didn’t do your homework, the poop that hits the fan blows back on you.
When you are out meeting, mixing, and mingling, follow some simple rules and you’ll build relationships that build business.
- Ask them about them first. What they do, why they do it, hobbies, interests.
- DO NOT SELL – Don’t tell them how your product or service can help them, because you have no idea if it can. Don’t try to get an order. Do Not EVER, EVER, EVER go up to a business that paid for a space at an event and tell them about you, your company, how you can help them. Never. Never, ever.
- Follow up with a card, an email, a call, anything. Ask them to coffee, invite them to another event (that is not a sales pitch for your company) or ask to come see their operation. Learn about them first.
- Above all else, find some way to be of service. Whether it is letting them know about a great coffee shop near their office, to giving them a lead, and everything in between.
When you take these simple steps after meeting someone, you end up building a relationship. Now before you whine, “but Catherine, building a relationship takes time,” let me point out that not building one takes money.
Do you think I will do business with the person who came up to the table I paid for, took my card, and proceeded to pitch me the next day? Likely not. For those building a relationship with us, we will find a way to be of service, even in a small way.
So, go out there. Meet people. And stop selling.