A time to sell...a time to tell
Salespeople attend networking events with the objective of finding potential customers. Many, however, are ill-prepared for the task. They don’t have a planned strategy to properly develop opportunities they might uncover.
As soon as someone shows an interest in the salesperson’s product or service, the salesperson drops into “sell” mode and begins a sales pitch. In less than a minute, the alleged prospect stops listening and begins formulating his exit strategy. “That sounds interesting, I’ll keep you in mind if we ever need anything like that,” he says as he begins to back away.
It’s important to remember that a networking event is not a sales call. It’s not a selling event. Think of it as a “marketing” event—an opportunity to identify people who have enough interest in your product or service to engage in a future discussion.
Whether your sales pitch consists of a description of the features and benefits of your product or, alternatively, a series of probing questions to uncover the prospect’s needs, both are inappropriate for a networking (marketing) event.
So, what is an appropriate conversation for a networking event?
When someone asks what you do, start with a problem-oriented description of your product or service.
We help manufacturing companies who are having problems meeting production quotas re-engineer their manufacturing processes to increase production efficiencies and reduce waste.
If the person shows interest, continue with an outcome-oriented description.
Our clients typically see production increases in the neighborhood of 15-25% and a significant reduction in reject rates—all of which is accomplished without increasing absolute production costs.
If the person shows further interest, perhaps asking, “How do you do that?” or a similar question, resist the temptation to drop into “sell” mode and, as so many salespeople do, explain your product or process in detail. Instead, stay in “marketing” mode and provide an example that illustrates what you do and the advantages enjoyed by your clients.
A recent client was under pressure to increase production throughput. By simply speeding up the production process, however, they doubled the reject rate, which severely undermined the initial goal. By carefully analyzing their production process and restructuring several key steps, we not only enabled them to increase production by 22%, but also reduce the reject rate to less than half of the previous low number.
Now, if your prospect wants additional information, it’s appropriate to suggest a more suitable setting within which to have a more in-depth conversation. You can suggest, and schedule, a phone call or face-to-face appointment.
If you approach networking events, whether formal or informal, prepared to have “marketing” conversations, you’re more likely to uncover prospects with whom to have subsequent “selling” conversations.
Copyright 2013 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.
John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected] toll free at 1-866-645-2047.
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