Local Networking Secrets: How to Greet Your Way to New Clients

Do you attend local networking events? Being part of formal referral and networking groups has been a big part of my success in growing two successful businesses in the past 6 years. Keep in mind that your networking doesn’t have to be limited to official events. I’ve used a terrific technique lately that is low-stress, low-pressure and very effective for connecting with new prospects.

Here’s what I do:

• I create a list of businesses in the area that would be a good fit for my services.
• After researching them (and noting what’s wrong with their marketing presence), I stop by casually while I’m out running errands or volunteering.
• During this meeting, I introduce myself, have a brief chat to gather some details, schedule a follow up meeting and leave my business card.
• During the follow-up appointment we discuss their needs, challenges and I propose a few solutions. This leads to a conversation about how we can work together and grow their business.
• They choose one of my consulting packages and we get started!

Meeting potential clients this way is effective because it’s very personal. It doesn’t feel pushy for the business owners or the staff. They get to meet me face to face and as a result they are more inclined to meet with me for the follow up appointment. I’m no longer a stranger, I’m Sydni – that nice lady that stopped by the other day.

Here’s how to put this technique to work for your business:     

Step One: Do your research.

You need to identify businesses in your area that you’d love to connect with. If you offer a B2B service (like web development) there are probably dozens of businesses that could use what you have to offer. If you’re focused on helping consumers directly (like interior design), there may be businesses in your area that you could partner with in order to offer value together. Either way, do your research online and various review sites to find a list of companies you want to connect with.

Step Two: Make a list to carry with you.

I use Evernote to save my list of potential prospects. With Evernote I can save their website, address and contact number and take it with me with the Evernote iPhone App . There’s an app for Android as well. If you don’t use a smartphone, a small notepad will work just fine. Just be sure you carry the information with you as you are out and about.

Step Three: Look for opportunities to pop in.

The best part about this technique is that you can do it while you’re running other errands and taking care of your personal business. Your aim is to make a personal connection with people in the business. Whenever you run an errand, look over your list of potential contacts and see if there’s somebody you can visit nearby.

Step Four: Focus on getting to know the gatekeeper – not selling your services.

It might be tempting to focus on what you do and the value you can offer the business you’re visiting, but you’ve got to keep the right perspective! Your goal during this first visit is to get to know the gatekeeper – usually the receptionist – and get information about who handles the decision making process. Be friendly and personable – not salesy.

Step Five: Schedule your follow-up appointment.

After a quick chat to find out more about the business and explain a bit about what you do, it’s time to plant the seeds for your next visit. Leave your card and ask for the opportunity to have a follow-up meeting or phone call (15 minutes max!) with the decision maker. You may even get to meet him or her on your first visit – but keep this visit short. Don’t worry about making your sales pitch at this point. Just get the appointment

This technique works great if you want to take a friendly, personable approach to networking in your local area. I know I’ve had great results with it so far and plan to continue using it into the future. Give it a try and see how it works for you too!

Your Take Action Plan for This Week:

  1. Make a list of businesses in your area that can benefit from your services.
  2. Take your list with you everywhere you go and look for opportunities to stop by.
  3. During your visit, get to know the gatekeeper and see if you can meet the decision maker as well.
  4. Schedule a follow-up appointment and leave your business card.
  5. Handle the follow-up appointment just as you would a normally and extend an offer for your services!