If you're like most sales professionals, you probably spend much of the day keeping your existing customers happy.
Because there often isn't not much time left to drum up new business, it's essential to make the most of your precious networking hours — or even minutes. Fortunately, you probably attend community functions where you rub elbows with potential customers. With a smart system for handling these opportunities, you can increase the chances of meeting new prospects.
The next time you're invited to a charity event or other professional gathering, try this four-step plan and make your connections pay off:
Step 1 — Try to meet six new people, rather than standing around with people you know. Go right up to strangers and introduce yourself: Many people are shy and looking for someone to help them feel comfortable. Ask about the person's company, position, educational background and interest in the sponsoring organization.
Step 2 — When people ask what you do, don't just say, "I'm a sales rep" or "I own a computer company." Create a brief one-sentence description that gives value for your clients. For example, "I'm a software sales specialist who helps small companies become more efficient."
Step 3 — After five or 10 minutes, politely say good-bye. Ask for your new acquaintance's contact information (you can swap using smart phones). Mention that you periodically send useful information. If you uncover a pressing issue, request permission to call or text. Move on graciously by saying, "It was nice to meet you" and approach the next prospect.
Step 4 — When you return to the office, enter the contact's information into your company database of potential clients or customers. Include these contacts when mailing marketing material and send any information that highlights your relevant expertise.
For top candidates, send a follow-up e-mail letting them know you enjoyed meeting them. Then try to set up a meeting.
Be proactive: This four-step plan lets you turn small talk into a wide circle of valuable customers and acquaintances.
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