Don't Prospect While Networking

Tuesday, 05 July 2016 07:34
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Don't Prospect While Networking

As they say, we only get one chance to make a good first impression. Last Friday, my wife Lee and I joined friends for dinner at a local restaurant and then traveled to our friend's workplace in downtown Columbus, Ohio to watch Red, White and Boom, our city's big Independence Day Fireworks display.

While there, I struck up a conversation with one of the attendees. In a matter of minutes, I learned about where he grew up, where he now lives, and people whom we both knew. I also learned that he designs commercial real estate buildings. This could make him a prospect for the electrothermal coating that my company represents. He could potentially champion its use for heated walkways to prevent ice related falls. I resisted the impulse to raise the topic with him.It would have been completely inappropriate given the setting.  If networking is about learning about others and establishing a basis for a possible relationship, our chat constituted networking. In this instance, by limiting our conversation to friendly small talk, I have preserved the possibility of raising the topic at some later point, if I choose to contact him.How does networking relate to customer prospecting? Networking can be a possible precursor to prospecting activity. It is very important to remember that unless we are very clear about our intentions, or if it is implicit that we are prospecting (as when attending a trade show) we will likely turn others off if we seek to overtly prospect while networking.

Networking at industry conferences can be a bit confusing for business developers. After all, they are surrounded by potential prospects and it can be extremely tempting for them to want to qualify someone they perceive as a prospect or launch into their sales pitch when all that is necessary and expected is for them to engage in some friendly conversation. 

We should use networking events to learn what we can about others and potentially set the stage for possible future interactions. If we are a cordial and considerate networker, we may just earn the opportunity to prospect (some of) them in another setting at another time. 

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