An integral part of being a successful sales professional is the ability to build a continuous pipeline of sales prospects. One popular way for many is to attend networking events.
While attending networking events are great, a large number of sales professionals fail miserably as they do not know how to network or follow-up correctly. Merely collecting name cards at the event and then following up the next day with an email to ask for an appointment smacks of hard selling.
The correct way to network is to spend a few minutes with each person you meet trying to understand his or her needs. You will be surprised that if you ask the right questions, you will be able to identify an opportunity for you to follow up without being pushy.
For example, if you discovered that the person is a tennis fan and there happens to be a tennis event your company is organizing, a great follow-up would be to send an email or phone call saying you remembered that she liked tennis. You can then offer to send her a complimentary ticket to watch the games or invite her to one of the parties.
This is a great follow-up as you will (a) not come across as hard selling; (b) gain credit for being a good listener; and (c) be perceived as someone who values relationships. This then puts the prospect in the correct frame of mind for you to subsequently make your sales pitch.
In short, sales professionals should attend networking events not with the intention to sell, but with the intention to build relationships. Once the relationship is cemented, sales will happen automatically. The networking tip is thus "focus on building relationships."