Let’s face it, some of you are blessed with the gift of gab, and well, some of you just find mingling, conversing and networking the worst part of your job. I get it. While I have never really been without something to say (and those of you who know me can attest to that fact), I will confess that growing up, I was the shy one who tended to gravitate to the corner. (No comments from the peanut gallery please!)
Successful sales persons need to find a way to engage their customers and build relationships. Successful sales persons need to “train” for networking and social situations much like an athlete trains for competition. These social opportunities allow the social butterflies of our industry to shine, and those who cannot compete to be overshadowed by the masters. So, how do you train for these types of events?
Well, this is what I do:
- READ. Read the newspaper, read books, read blogs, read the Internet news, read about local events, read, read, read! Read a little about a lot of different topics. My favorite is USA Today. Read about the happenings in a few different states, read something from the front page, from the Money, Sports and Social pages. Read something from the Op-Ed section. A little bit of info will keep you in a lot of conversations. Set Google Alerts for your area, your competition and your major clients. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to approach a client/potential client and say, “Congrats on your promotion. I saw it in the paper today”?
- WATCH TV. No, not re-runs of the Golden Girls – but current event shows, news media, entertainment media, and prime time TV. You might even want to throw in some reality TV as well. How many times has “who got kicked off (Survivor, Big Brother, American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, etc.)” come up in social conversation? You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to be an aficionado, but you have to be aware.
- KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. Do you have a 30 second “elevator pitch” in your mind about your business and hotel? This should be a concise conversation that summarizes the essence of your business quickly and effectively. You must be able to let this roll off the tip of your tongue easily and that takes practice.
- KNOW YOURSELF. Create a short intro speech about yourself and practice it. Building connections takes time and one of the biggest mistakes is going for the sale versus building relationships. People buy from people they know and like. It’s a little like dating.
- BE APPROPRIATE TO THE ENVIRONMENT. The key to selling is to be able to access the environment and speak appropriately. For example, if you are at a meal function, you know you will have the other 9 people at the table captive for at least an hour. The key to selling in this scenario is to be sure you do not dominate the conversation. Pace yourself. You are limited to engaging only the other people at your table so “schmooze and dine” with care. The environment is secondary to the interaction and the content is less important than the actual face time.
Preparation is the key. Just like you prepare for a sales call, if you train for networking and mingling, it should become second nature. You might just find it works. You might even find it fun.