In a competitive business environment, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) must leverage every advantage they can find. Many have quite rightly tapped the digital world for online leads, but the power of offline networking for lead generation should not be overlooked.
Face-to-face meetings at industry events are great for lead generation. However, there are a few key dos and don’ts that you should keep in mind.
Build real relationships
At its core, business is about trustworthy partnerships. In-person interaction at a networking event gives you a powerful head start on building long-term relationships.
Talking to prospects and leads at a networking event is an opportunity to meet the people behind the email addresses. You’ll learn firsthand about specific pain points and how your product or service may be capable of solving them.
PRO TIP: Keep the hard sell to a minimum. Be genuinely interested in the person you’re speaking with – good lead generation is about building relationships first, and selling second.
Create trust and increase visibility
Attending events such as trade shows, exhibitions and conferences will increase your visibility and trustworthiness within your industry. It will also help you to stay on top of developing trends. The key, however, is to listen. The more you listen to the challenges your leads face, the more you’ll be able to tailor your sales message to focus on solving their problems.
PRO TIP: Seize any opportunities to deliver keynote addresses or other presentations at industry events, and be available following your speech to speak with interested parties.
Focus on leads of higher value
Contacts who approach you at events usually do so because they’re interested in your product or service. That means you can skip the time-consuming prospecting and count them as a qualified lead.
PRO TIP: Pay attention to your body language. Avoid standing with crossed arms and a stern look. Keep it light with a smile, arms by your sides, and plenty of eye contact.
Practice what works
Interacting with potential leads at face-to-face events gives you an opportunity to stay in touch with what your market wants, how your product or service is being received, and how you may need to tweak your marketing message.
This doesn’t mean you should lose motivation if an interaction doesn’t prove successful. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity. Practice what works, and lose what doesn’t.
PRO TIP: Don’t automatically launch into a sales pitch. Rather, ask questions about the person’s business journey and how they got to where they are today. This will reveal insights into how they think and what they are likely to respond to.
Value business cards
Trawling LinkedIn may be an increasingly popular prospecting method, but business cards you collect at events are a more reliable source of direct contact information.
Online identities can be misleading – or even fake – and cause you to lose time when they turn out to be dead ends. Business cards, on the other hand, are a more trustworthy proof of identity, so carry yours along and collect those of prospects.
PRO TIP: Use a business database management system to scan, tag and store business cards you collect at events.
Focus on listening over selling at industry events and you’ll make high-value contacts. Keep your sales message closely aligned with the shifting needs of your customers, and you’re likely to see positive returns.