Some salespeople only get a few opportunities each year to network, while others attend networking events several times per month.
When it comes to making (or beating) your quota, networking is a game-changing strategy.
You can meet potential customers, find out who’s in the market for your product before anyone else, keep tabs on your prospects’ buying processes, get referrals, build your industry reputation, and more.
Want to become a networking champion? Read on for a brilliant hack from Ferenc Huszár, a machine learning researcher at Twitter.
How to Meet People at Networking Events
Imagine you’ve just walked into a huge room filled with strangers. You could approach someone at random and start talking to them -- but it’s highly likely neither of you will be able to provide value to each other.
In the time it takes to discover your goals or needs don’t line up, you could have met a different attendee who could benefit from your product or knows someone who does. There’s a huge opportunity cost to every unproductive conversation.
Fortunately, Huszár has found a simple yet incredibly effective way to hone in on the most useful people in a room.
Pick a random person in the crowd.
Ask her (or him) if she knows anyone at this meetup. When she points at someone, go talk to that person instead.
His two-step technique is based on the Friendship Paradox, a phenomenon in which a few members of a social network tend to have dramatically more connections than anyone else.
“Probability works in your favor,” Huszár explains. “This randomly picked individual (the person the first one points to) is … quite likely to be a highly connected individual.”
Let’s say you walk over to the second person and introduce yourself -- and it becomes clear they’re not the right person to be talking to, either.
Ask them, “Besides [name of first person], do you know anyone else here?”
The person they reference is probably another super-connector.
Researching Attendees Before the Event
It’s also a good idea to check out the other attendees before an event. This exercise allows you to pinpoint the most valuable people for you to speak to and find commonalities, professional details, and other talking points you can leverage to build rapport.
Some networking platforms, like Eventbrite, Facebook, and Meetup, make attendee lists public. You can also find the people who are going by searching the event’s hashtag (if it exists) on Twitter and/or Instagram.
Alternatively, consider emailing the organizers and asking for a list of attendees. Tell them you’re trying to prepare for the event -- you’d be surprised at how many will happily send you their attendee list.
Once you know who you want to talk to, save their name, picture, general information, reason you want to talk to them, and potentially an opener on your phone. When you see them, you can quickly pull up these notes on your phone and give them a glance while you walk over.
Don’t spend valuable time and energy going to networking events and getting no return. With these strategies, you'll maximize your chances of forming connections that'll lead somewhere.
Originally published Mar 17, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated June 25 2019