This answer has lit up in my head after reading a question posed by my student just two days after the first part of a business development course. The question was related to a senior level event the company has been invited to. They wanted to make the most of it. Should they shake hands and make as many introductions as possible or would it better to start a conversation with a stranger hoping to stumble upon a buyer or get recommend to speak to someone else? We have talked about this briefly, but it is worth getting into more detail. My answer was simple — do anything but DO NOT SELL.
To sell something you actually should stop selling. Yes… stop your sales pitch, stop asking those stupid 32 lead identification questions you been given, stop linking them to your product features and stop pushing the client to make a decision on the spot. It is boring, it stinks, it is fake… and, I am sure you can do better than that! After years of developing business and teaching does and don’ts of sales across various cultures Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Russia, the only sales technique worth memorising is…. Curiosity. Yes. Simple, genuine (and I mean it), honest curiosity. If you fake it — you are done. Same as if you are caught red handed mirroring, anchoring or in other words NLP’ing someone or using other method known to influence a decision to give desired results. It diminishes the respect and you do not want that. Being curious, looking your client in the eye and actually be willing to hear more what they have to say it is what your client would remember.
Try to be more creative, try to understand who the person is you are talking to. Ask what superpowers does your client have? What will you hear? Laughter? If if you take it further you may hear that your client’s superpower is taking care of the kids, spending hours studying Japanese, writing Sci-Fi books, diving, angling or volunteering at the charity or church. And if you may share similar values or interests elaborate on that. If not, discuss how you can experience that yourself if you are keen to. Complement someone if they look fantastic! Could they advise you on what helped them to get that far? Maybe you tried all those vegan, keto, low carbs etc diets and went nowhere? Talking about exploring cultures and their unusual habits, health and fitness, managing people, film photography or building businesses interest me personally thus I openly ask nearly any question I can think of. And that freedom opens up doors. Being naturally curious might be something you need to tune into. But do not be afraid to take of your guard. Just be honest. And …DO NOT SELL yourself or the product.
So how do I introduce myself or the company? There might be a moment when the person would ask “hey, what about you, what do you do here?” this might be your chance to present yourself as personality, but do not push, do not brag, just explain in a few words what do you do and what your are here for, then exchange business cards. After all you may have found your diving buddy for your next adventure in Cozumel or the Red Sea or even Raja Ampat! Would you aggressively pitch your friend a product your company manufactures? You have to learn to build the momentum and become attractive so that people would want to use your service not because you pitch them, but because they trust you and your recommendation.
Who shall I choose to talk to?
Well there is a magic word called homework. Always, I have to stress it always do your homework and find out who is attending the event, a meeting if you do not know them. Google that company or a person, find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing or anywhere else. Check their posts, latest news, make few notes, just a bit to get started: · where are they from; · what do they do; · what events they attend; · some hobbies they are proud of; · and most importantly why would you want to talk to them.
This is also helping to ensure you are actually reaching out to the right contact. If you cannot find that person during the event, request the organised to introduce them to you. Organisers are normally eager to help all paid visitors as they want you back for more next year. What you want is a strong rapport with one or two contacts you meet during the event. Less is more. Two good meetings, build that rapport. Follow up. Ask for references if needed. Repeat.
We did not discover America here but hopefully raised mindfulness in selling and business developing by a little bit to make you stand out from all those sellers by the script. Be attentive, be creative, be you! My sales guru once said: You got two ears and one mouth — use them in that proportion! I made a promise to myself to talk more with my students about identifying a right contact and building a rapport via true natural curiosity. We are human beings; we need to socialise thus let’s make it fun and worthwhile.
Happy networking and productive meetings,
Audrius K A passionate business developer and coach, who loves exploring cultures and helping companies and students uncover their superpowers!