Networking events are starting to pop up, and many of us are nervous about meeting people face to face again after we’ve been virtual for a year. Here’s my experience getting back out there, along with a few strategies for maintaining emotional control and making powerful connections.
From A Zoom World To The Real World
Are you one of those salespeople who says, “I’m much more comfortable face to face with prospects”? The opportunity to get in front of prospects again is upon you, albeit in masks and with social distancing.
Many people have returned to work in their offices, and in-person networking events are beginning to pop up. It can feel a little surreal being back out there after living in a Zoom world for a year. Even I had to ask myself, “Do I remember how to attend networking events anymore?”
Getting “Back Out There”
Prior to joining Sales Gravy full-time, I owned a business in Myrtle Beach, SC, and had made myself known through my local chamber, associations, and volunteer work. Back in the “old days”, it’s how I built relationships to generate revenue.
That’s not surprising for an extrovert (and former entertainer) who thrives on in-person human interaction. The relationships I established continue to help me grow my book of business now for Sales Gravy.
So, when one of our Myrtle Beach clients (and my chamber “ambassador”) told me I should attend the chamber’s business expo, I complied, mostly to support him and his team. I had just wrapped up four weeks of Fanatical Prospecting training with them.
Be Face-to-Face Ready
I’m probably one of the less risk-averse people who are willing to go out in public during a pandemic, following the guidelines of course. I only had two hours to spare because I was in between training and coaching client appointments. Luckily, I’m always “video ready”, which means I was “face-to-face ready”. But I still had to plan for drive time, which I’m no longer accustomed to.
I didn’t know what to expect at the expo, nor did I overthink it. I just showed up in my mask ready to mingle. The chamber took all of the necessary precautions. They took temperatures and had masks on hand. The tradeshow/expo booths were socially distanced. The biggest cluster of people were those standing in line at the bar with our free drink tickets. Otherwise, it was pretty sparse in attendance compared to years’ past. And what an amazing opportunity that was in itself, because it allowed for quality one-on-one conversations.
Open More Doors By Being Open With Others
Since the event had low attendance, it was easy to be noticed, especially for someone like me. I barely made it in the door and people were instantly approaching me. It was like returning to summer camp and seeing all of my old friends for the first time in a year!
Despite my comfort in front of people, even I was a little disoriented at first on how to act and carry myself. So, I did what most salespeople at a function do; I got in line at the bar. Before I could walk away, five other salespeople from the same company started interrogating me with probing discovery questions that made me want to run. My fight or flight response was on high alert.
Exercise Emotional Control
These guys were “ready to party” (sell to any and everyone). I felt myself getting annoyed quickly, thinking to myself, “I just want to ease into the pool here and warm up.” Luckily, my emotional control skills kicked in and I disrupted the conversation by turning it around on them. Be ready to flip the script when other salespeople are trying to sell to you; and instead, leverage them for referrals to decision-makers in their own companies.
Know Your Audience
Right in front of me was my target audience: salespeople! Before I knew it, one of them motioned over to another guy to join us. It was his boss, the sales manager. “You need to meet Gina. She’s a sales trainer.” I walked away with his business card and a verbal agreement to meet in a week. They are building a team of 500 salespeople nationally. Boom! This is why it is critical to know your target audience and where to find them at an event. You should have a game plan and clear goals before you arrive at an event. Who do you want to connect with? How many people do you want to connect with?
By the way, I didn’t have any business cards on me. And when asked for one, I said “I take cards. I don’t give them.” These guys looked at me like I had two heads. Complete silence and then head nods. “Wow. What a great idea,” said Salesman John. Always ask for more business cards than you give away.
Live And In-Person Referrals
The other important thing to remember at networking events is to ask for referrals and to connect with others. Eventually, I made it over to my client’s booth. The entire sales team was there and excited to see. One of them ran up to me immediately to tell me about a deal he just closed “because of the call block you made us do last week. I got an appointment and just closed the deal today.” The contract amount was exactly the same amount they paid us for training!
My point of contact was thrilled about this news and it had literally happened just moments before they arrived at the event, so they were on a high. With this win fresh on his mind, he started talking to another company about me and our training program. Boom! Another connection wanting to have a conversation with me!
Referrals are gold, especially when the ROI is on full display. It can be a challenge to make it a practice to ask for referrals. The best time to do it is when your solutions turn into results. For me, I get testimonials immediately after training, and then I continuously check in with my clients to monitor results. It makes it easy for me to say “who else do you know” throughout the process. In this networking situation, getting instant referrals was the best feeling ever.
Coaching The Coach
Prior to attending, my business coach had reached out to me to ask if I was attending the event. I think he was really gently nudging me to come out of hiding. We were able to connect one-on-one for a few minutes, which deepened my commitment to being “coached up”. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a coach.
This also gave me an opportunity to introduce him to some of my connections as he has done for me on many occasions. So, when you attend networking events, always be ready to connect other people to each other (especially if you’re an extrovert).
Looking for an edge? Ready to make your move? Need help getting over hump and to the next level? Then schedule a free consultation to learn more about Sales Gravy Elite Coaching.
About the author
Gina Trimarco is a Master Trainer and leadership strategist who helps organizations re-humanize relationships…