Spend time building and nurturing your network. Your relationships are the key to gaining and retaining customers and other business associates. And they can help you cut through the "red tape" you encounter on your way.
Many Europeans typically show up to a conference at the very last minute and leave as soon as it’s over to not "waste" more time than necessary. That's not the case in the US where people take the time before and after conferences to network with the other attendants.
Henrik Slipsager, a successful Danish businessman in the USA, said in an article in Børsen: “If you go home to the family every afternoon instead of going to dinner or playing golf with the business associates, you will not build the necessary trust and relationship between you and your customers and partners. One can be sure that the competitors are working hard with the so-called relationship management. If you do not build relationships, you will be run over”.
A good rule of thumb for you is that networking starts half an hour before and ends half an hour (or more) after an event. Therefore, when planning your business trip, make sure to leave plenty of time in your schedule for networking. It is during these hours that you have the opportunity to build the network that will open the right doors for you in the long run and ensure that your business achieves success.
Make sure you stay after the conference instead of leaving straight away to go home to respond to emails. I do not neglect your emails, but you have a unique opportunity to meet some exciting people and create a network that will be worth the while in the long run. The more technical a conference is, and the more eager you are to sell "difficult" products, the more important it is that you network with those who have knowledge and interest in exactly that topic.
The purpose is to find your “cheerleaders”; someone who knows you, likes you and trusts you so they can introduce you to their network. They might even ask you: "How can I help you become successful?", "Who will be a good contact for you?" or “Let me introduce you to…” And if you get one of those questions, you need to know what to answer!
"I save children". This is how the answer may be when you ask someone what she does. You may think - like me - that she is a pediatrician, but the reality is different. In this case, she makes pool fences that prevent children from falling into the swimming pool, but the result is that she saves children - and those were the first words in her pitch.
If you are good at your pitch, and you know how to use your network professionally, you will find that some people will gain so much trust in you that they will introduce you to their network. This is where you need to remember that you must never - and I really mean never - burn a contact that you have been introduced to as a result of a good relationship.
Remember that "relationships are a trading currency" - and if you start burning your bridges, it will be difficult to break through. And it's hard to get another in.
An important part of networking is being remembered. That's why business cards with titles are a must. If you do not hand in a business card, how will they remember you from the 99 others they meet that day? And no - I'm not a fan of electronic business cards: you have five minutes to talk to people - do not spend time on your pitch fumbling with technology in a conference room with poor wifi connectivity.
When you get home to your hotel room, I would encourage you to spend half an hour connecting on LinkedIn with all those you have met. Remember to send a personal invitation with a single remark from your conversation; it makes you seem serious and helps the relationship along the way.
And you have to remember to maintain your relationships - especially with the people you meet through your concept test. Find out who you need to focus on being in dialogue with while you are at home and customize your product. It quickly takes half a year before you are ready for the next step - they cannot remember you if you do not spend the time maintaining your relationship.
I can guide you through the whole process of establishing your company in the European market and begin to understand the culture and way of thinking. I can also help you review your collection of business cards from a conference or similar so that we can find the ones that you need to strategically focus on maintaining.
After working with international trade for more than 35 years, I have built up a large network, I have hands-on experience with sales in both the USA and Europe.
Contact me for a non-committal talk about how I can help your business with your next strategic step in the European market.
This was the COURAGE model's G - you must dare to build relationships and create networks. We are almost at the end and the final step E: Exponential Growth and Exit, which you can read about here on the blog next week. Stay tuned!
Charlotte Nytoft / Oct 12th, 2021
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