If you’re well-prepared, networking is an excellent way to build lasting business relationships and get new business into your sales pipeline. But going to the networking event is only part of the deal. The work is in what you do afterwards, which is where outsourced sales support or, at the very least, a process for following up leads, is vital.
You may have already read our other blogs on what to do before networking and how to get the most out of your networking group when you’re there. So you’ll know that you need to understand the format and style of the meeting, know who else is going to be there and who you’d particularly like to talk to, and make sure you have the right messages and attitude when you get there.
Once you’re back in the office, however, you can’t take your foot off the pedal – now’s the time where you can cement that positive impact you made with a clear, non-pushy follow-up, and you can do this yourself or use a service like a virtual business-to-business appointment setting assistant to do this for you.
What makes a good follow-up?
First, do what you say you would do. If you offered to make an introduction via email, then do it within 24 hours and take the time to introduce people properly – explain each business and where you think there might be a synergy.
If you offered to send out some information, get it over by email or out in the post as soon as possible. Make the covering note friendly and polite and suggest some dates for a meeting or a follow-up call without being pushy.
If you said you’d look at diary dates, call your contact as soon as possible and offer two or three alternatives. Make it as easy for them to meet you as possible – offer to come to their offices or to meet nearby. If they are some distance away from you, offer a video call to save time.
Check that people are happy to be added to your mailing list if you have one. You have to protect data in a variety of ways for data protection regulations and you have to get consent for each thing that you’d like to keep clients in touch with. So you need to get their permission to hold their data for your newsletter, for example, and you must not then send them anything other than your newsletter without further consent. You can ask your virtual CRM assistant or expert for more help and advice in this area.
It’s unusual that a conversation at a networking meeting turns into immediate business. A prospective client might want to discuss the project, see previous examples of your work, get an idea of cost and compare you with other product or service providers. All of this takes time – your networking contact is now in your sales funnel, so you need to apply the same process and attitude to them as you do with your other sales opportunities, whilst also building on the personal relationship you are developing.
Keeping in touch and checking on progress without being pushy or putting your client off – and particularly continuing to go to the networking event so you are seeing them in person and continuing that personal relationship increases the chances of them choosing to work with you.
Using outsourced sales team support at this point means that you and your team can concentrate on promoting the business and delivering to clients, whilst the job of appointment setting, information gathering and question-answering can be done by a dedicated admin function.
Networking is most successful when it is done regularly and positively. That’s because you are building and maintaining genuine relationships where business is based on trust and reputation. In order to make networking truly effective, you must prepare for the meeting, know what you want to get out of it and follow up promptly and positively. Once your contacts are in your sales process, and your business is growing, use outsourced sales support to handle the day-to-day tasks while you concentrate on relationships and delivery.
If you’re short on time and you need help with networking or would like to know about any of our other virtual personal assistant services, feel free to call us on 0800 994 9016 or click here to request a free consultation.