How to increase your sales at networking activities

Marc F. Adam is president and CEO of Nixa, a Montreal-based company founded in 2013 specializing in web development. This experienced businessman successfully expanded his business internationally with offices in New York and Philadelphia. Prior to this, he spent many hours networking to increase his contacts. We met up with him for advice on how to get the most out of networking activities.

Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) – How many networking activities have you taken part in since founding Nixa?

Marc F. Adam (M.F.A.) – About 700 in North America. That comes out to nearly four events a week during periods of high activity.

CCMM –How do you choose which events to attend?

M.F.A. – When I founded my company, every event was a good opportunity for business development. Today, because I travel a lot, my time is limited. I tend to favour events that extend a personal invitation to me. I share my time between various markets while ensuring a presence in Montreal so that people remember me.

CCMM – What is your goal when you are networking?

M.F.A. – My goal is to maintain my network of contacts. I divide my time between two objectives: first, build business relationships (20% of my time), and second, maintain these relationships (80% of my time). In this kind of event, my golden rule is quality, not quantity. That’s why I always focus on the following goal: have seven conversations, lasting seven minutes each, that will lead to seven new contacts… This is a lot easier to achieve than to sell 10 products, believe me!

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CCMM – Is it wrong to assume that a networking activity will result in a sale?

M.F.A. – No, that type of event can lead to a contract, but not on the same day. That’s what’s important to understand. The common mistake is to network in order to sell or get financing. Nobody likes that. You network to get contacts, you focus on relationships, show interest in the people you meet. Basically, you have to start by giving to receive. The chances are very low that the person you are speaking with can finance you, but on the other hand, they might be able to put you in contact with someone who can.

"The common mistake is to network in order to sell or get financing”

CCMM –What’s a good tip to gain your audience’s attention?

M.F.A. – Be concise in your elevator pitch and look natural (don’t recite your speech). Keep in mind that the first eight seconds are extremely critical. After that, you might get interrupted or your audience might stop paying attention.

How can you pique your conversation partner’s interest immediately?
» Selling your elevator pitch in 30 seconds

Two tips to break the ice with someone new. First, start with something like “What do you do?” or “What made you decide to work in that sector?” Second, keep abreast of current events so you always have something to talk about.

CCMM –What’s the right attitude to have?

M.F.A. – In terms of non-verbal communication, begin and end the conversation with a handshake. During a conversation with someone, stand in a way that your shoulders are parallel to theirs and look them in the eyes. That will let them know they have your attention. Practice active listening. Did you know that in a group, those who speak the less but ask questions are considered the smartest?

CCMM –When do you show up to an event?

M.F.A. – Early, about 20 minutes after the doors open. There are fewer people, it’s easier to start conversations with the people there. High-quality people are present during the first part of the event (before the speeches begin).

CCMM –When do you leave?

M.F.A. – When I feel I’m in my element, because that’s when I leave the best impression.

CCMM – What is the first and last things you do?

M.F.A. – The first thing I do is to walk around the room. I locate key areas and I greet people I know. I then walk up to someone from my network, give them a pat on the back so they can introduce me to their conversation circle.

Before leaving, I quickly do one last tour of the room to see the people I just met as well as my contacts. In my opinion, it’s a good message to send: you show that you are leaving early because you have other obligations.

CCMM – In closing, what is something you should not underestimate at this type of event?

M.F.A. – That it’s exhausting. You need to think quick, no matter how tiring your day was. You need to understand what the person you are speaking to is talking about and react appropriately. You also might need to switch languages, which takes energy. I think it’s the activity that demands the most energy.

For more than 10 years, Acclr has been providing training on the art of networking with experts from Marketing Face à Face.

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