So you’ve made yourself get out there and go to some networking meetings. Good for you! But are you concerned because you didn’t walk away with a meeting already set up? The good news is you stepped out of your comfort zone and made contacts; the bad news is that you may not know what to do next. How do you reach out to set up that first meeting?
Here are six simple rules to make sure your first encounters are meetings your network will attend and remember.
Rule Number One
The first thing to remember is this: don’t push for the first meeting while you’re out networking. Too many times, we go out with the intention of meeting people and we want to make sure we get face time with them. We want to make a deal, confirm the sale, convert them, or whatever it is we’re trying to do.
The trouble is that when you try to set up a time and place for a meeting right on the spot, it can be very off-putting. People don’t so much go to networking events to make plans or set up meetings as they do to meet and connect with people.
That’s what your primary goal should be: making a connection. So when you’re out, just focus on phone numbers and email addresses and making a genuine connection with people. When you take out the part of trying to schedule a meeting, you can focus on what actually matters, like smiling at the person you’re talking to, paying attention to what they’re saying, putting your best foot forward, and establishing that connection so when you do set a meeting, they’ll actually show up because they’re looking forward to hanging out with you again.
Rule Number Two
When the time comes to set up a meeting, it’s a good idea to have several places you’re interested in picked out ahead of time. It’s best to have a place in mind where you’re comfortable, with good ambience and conducive to conversation.
You’re not off to a great start when you go to schedule a meeting and initiate a round of, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know, what you want to go?”
“It doesn’t matter to me, wherever you want to go is fine.”
Whoever you’re meeting, have a list of places picked out for several different functions, whether it’s a business meeting to give a sales pitch, a first date place, a lunch spot, or a coffee spot.
Another reason you should be familiar with the location you suggest is that if you pick a spot out of the blue, you heighten the chances of arriving and being thrown off your game and uncomfortable. You don’t know where to park; you don’t know where to sit; you don’t know where the bathrooms are. This sets the tone for the rest of the meeting. It’s much easier and a lot less stress if you have several places in mind you’re familiar with to choose from.
Rule Number Three
Always, always, always get there early. Not on time — be there early. If your GPS says it will take you 30 minutes to get there, leave 45 minutes to an hour early. When the person you’re meeting gets there and sees you’re already there, they understand this meeting matters to you.
Arriving late is rude and disrespectful. It conveys the message that his time is not important to you. They may think you’re not taking it seriously and they don’t matter if you can’t be bothered to show up on time. What’s more, you’re setting yourself up for anxiety and nerves by arriving late; no one likes to feel panicked and rushed as they run to make a meeting.
Just don’t do it. Always arrive early.
Rule Number Four
When you’re setting up a business meeting, give the person a couple different options. Rather than saying, “I can only meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday,” give them two or three options that work for you. That way, you’re not going back and forth, wasting time asking, “When are you free?”
“Tuesday at noon would be good.”
“No, sorry, that won’t work for me; how about Monday evening at 6?”
“I can’t do Monday, how about Thursday morning?”
And on and on and on…
It ends up leaving a bad taste in their mouth. They’re trying to imagine how it would be to do business with you if it takes that long just to set up a lunch meeting. Seven emails, two text messages, a voicemail, and he had to pick the restaurant…suddenly they’re not so sure they want to do business with you at all.
Rule Number Five
Be honest about why you want to meet with them. If you’re upfront and candid, it goes a long way toward making the other person feel comfortable doing business with you. The last thing anyone wants to hear is, “Surprise! I’m just here to sell you on my business. I don’t care about the conversation or how good the pizza is, I just want to sell you!”
Being upfront will carry you a long way. “Hey, I’ve got a great service I think can really help you maximize your email list. How about we meet for coffee next week and I’ll give you a quick demo?” This is much more appealing than wondering if you’ll have to sit through an hour-long lunch meeting while someone tries to coerce you into buying whatever product or service they have to sell.
There’s no need to hide what you’re doing. Don’t let them think it’s a free lunch out of the goodness of your heart, then suddenly try to make a sale. That’s pretty much a guaranteed “no thank you.” It will make them uncomfortable, and because you were less than direct, they won’t want to spend any more time with you. Ultimately, they won’t want to buy your services, even if they do need them and could benefit from them.
Rule Number Six
This one is simple: be prepared. If you’re the one who set up the meeting and you have a pitch to make or a demo to show, make sure you have everything ready. Have the paperwork you need and make sure any tech is working properly.
If the other person takes the time to drive out and sit down with you, you want them to feel like they made a good decision spending time with you. One-on-one time is the most valuable thing we have, so make sure you take care to respect other people’s time by showing up early, being honest, and being prepared.