Your schedule for the next two months is full, that’s great. You really don’t feel like putting in the effort required to market your services at the upcoming three-day conference in your city. But you know you have to do it to feed the pipeline even though you find it stressful. Up-selling to current clients can only take you so far, new clients will be needed to help you achieve your projected income for the rest of the year.  Sometimes you really have to get away from the desk and leave the laptop at home.

Get focused

Attending trade shows, industry events and business conferences that focus on your own areas of expertise is the best networking opportunity. Choose your events carefully based on the potential they have to open up new lines of business and fresh customers.  Study the brochure to find out who the speakers are, who the sponsors and exhibitors are and deduce the likely size of the audience.

Plan ahead

Your main objective is to find prospects who are struggling with updating and managing their web content and who have no time to write anything to promote their business.  These potential customers need to develop customer case studies, informative articles and send out newsletters as well as manage their social media.  You are the perfect person to do that for them.  Sponsors and exhibitors are likely candidates: review the list and pick, say five, to connect with before the conference.  Make a list of people you already know who can introduce you to others, especially any current clients.  Ideally, make appointments in advance, this relieves the pressure of cold introductions at the event.

When you get there

There’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings.   Be open to talking to everyone you meet, treating them all the same.  Delegates can put you in touch with their colleagues at that exact organisation that you have been keen to target. They can open the door to a more relevant contact, maybe a business development or marketing director. Take advantage of social breakfast gatherings and site visits – they can be a welcome break from the talk-fest and provide more chance of one-to-one conversations.

Be a resource

Networking is a two way street:  introduce someone you know to a person that could help them. The phrase “pay it forward” comes to mind. Help others with sharing your contacts, experience and knowledge before helping yourself. If a person considers you to be a good resource, he or she will invariably return the favour.

Listening is a vital skill

Take time to find out about the person you’re talking to before showcasing your own achievements.  Ask questions, people love to talk about themselves!  Give the person you are speaking to 100% of your attention. Standing and speaking in a similar way to your colleagues – i.e. ‘matching and mirroring’ their body movements and tone of voice – is an excellent way to relax people. Be interested  (even if you are not really): turn the conversation back to the other person.   If the conversation has reached its natural end, move on, respectfully.

After the event

Keep a diary of your networking activity after an event.  Who did you talk to, when and what transpired? Schedule the next actions and continue to follow up. This is what all the best salespeople do. Business development is not a one-day game, keep your prospects warm.  Use LinkedIn to connect with people you have met or follow up by email.

Keep track of when people change their job  as their email address and other details will change. When they move, drop them a note to wish them well and find out what they are up to. Their new role could lead to a new opportunity for you.  Your journal (or excel spreadsheet) could be a goldmine for you.