Sellers and business owners are always on the move. Fortunately, increased travel means more opportunities to network, with a focus on clients and prospects. With some simple strategizing, you can optimize your relationship building wherever you go, be it 500 kilometres away or five kilometres from your office.
1. Locate your opportunities. The first step to better networking is to plan in advance. Before travelling:
- Check your data base to see who else is in that locale.
- Ask your client to recommend someone else you should meet.
- Look at associations you belong to – or should belong to – and find meetings that fit your schedule.
- Research your destination’s business journal or Chamber of Commerce website for lunch/dinner events you can attend to network.
- LinkedIn also helps to locate networking opportunities. Search for contacts in your destination. Send a message that you’ll be in town and request to meet up.
For example, when I was with PSS Software (now OpenText) we belonged to the American Records Management Association ̶ today ARMA International. Whenever I headed to Houston, I scheduled client meetings around the ARMA chapter gatherings so I could network with new members and prospect. At one particular gathering, I met a buyer from an oil company I’d never heard of. My team later ended up closing a $150,000 contract with this prospect.
2. Follow the ratio. When scheduling meetings ahead of travelling, keep the 3:1 ratio in mind: Three qualified leads for every client. By having three prospects in the pipeline, chances are you’ll close on at least one of them.
A new coaching customer of mine with a very small territory said she needed to grow $110,000 to $250,000 this year. Aside from seeing all of her clients, I recommended the 3:1 ratio. That way, she’d always have a new sale and an existing sale on every trip, which is double what her territory earned last year. Now she’s on track to hit this year’s quota.
3. Optimize travel time. Take car services or taxis whenever possible instead of driving yourself. How does this maximize networking? It allows you to:
- Make calls, set up and confirm appointments, and plan for meetings. Also, it’s easier to spot signs for businesses that could be future clients.
- Skip the traffic battles and arrive on time and refreshed. Being frazzled impacts your networking. You’re more likely to complain about your negative experience, which prospects definitely don’t want to hear.
- Make use of that in-air time to take care of your work so you’re focused on the client/prospects when you arrive.
4. Know your own customers. Don’t forget networking opportunities with your existing clients. If you’ll be visiting, ask for introductions to their colleagues. Have them invite someone new (their “No. 2” and “No. 3” person) to your meeting. If your request for introductions is turned down, ask your client if you can make calls to arrange quick meet-and-greets since you’ll be on site. You want to meet someone new on each trip so you’re constantly building out your network of people inside the company.
One of our clients was in town taking a buyer to lunch and asked, “who else in the company is using the software we installed?” Turned out it was the legal department. The seller requested inviting one of its key people to lunch. The result? He met the chief legal counsel and built a relationship that led to referrals to the company’s overseas divisions and partners.
5. Keep the ball rolling. When meeting with a prospect be sure to carve out the next steps. That way it won’t come as a surprise when you follow up. For example, tell them you want to give some thought to the ideas shared. Ask if it’s okay to send an e-mail in the next few days.
And finally, be sure to send a thank-you note. Ideally it should be handwritten, but an e-mail also works. Let the prospect know you appreciated meeting with them while you were in town. This will show you’re dedicated to building a future relationship with them.