Above: Turner Mining Group’s Thomas Haun pictured with the Firmatek team at DJI Airworks conference — before social distancing.

By Kate Steger, Business Development Representative

It’s no secret that tradeshows, conferences, and all other forms of in-person networking have been suspended during the current COVID-19 pandemic. While many of us are working from home, maintaining communication with clients is key to developing lasting partnerships. The ones that stop thinking of ways to serve their clients will pay the price down the road. Now more than ever, it’s a good time for sales professionals to get creative with their networking skills. Not only should we adapt to new ways of communicating, but we should take the time to reflect on how we can improve traditional ways of in-person service. When the time comes that we can again gather in groups, your team will be prepared to continue meeting your clients’ needs.

As for solving today’s networking problem, there’s a few things that everyone in a sales or business development role should be doing:

1. Keep in touch.

Understand how your partners and clients are affected. How is the business itself being affected? Every industry has taken a hit a little bit differently. By realizing what your clients are up against, you can tailor your message and service to help suit their current needs. How are their employees are affected? Has half the company been laid off? Knowing this information will help you keep track of who you should be talking to.

2. Happy hours with key clients.

On a Friday afternoon, show your clients you still want to know what’s going on with them by hosting a virtual happy hour. Everyone is talking to less people on some level, so giving people the opportunity to socialize will mean more to them than it would under normal circumstances. How you interact with your network right now will leave a long lasting impression. The contacts you make have to be genuine.

3. Figure out what LinkedIn can do for you.

It’s the biggest social networking site for business, yet it’s still highly under-utilized. Can you host a public webinar showcasing your services, and post about it on LinkedIn for your connections to see? Are you identifying key potential clients, and sending a message request to connect? Figuring out everything LinkedIn’s tools has to offer will give you an advantage over those who won’t do so.

4. Be patient.

With understanding the hit your client has taken, it is important to be patient. They may not have the budget this month to utilize your services but it is important to focus on building relationships. It is the foundation on which your business lies.

With that being said, you can also use this time to focus on improving your in- person networking skills. While Firmatek finds tremendous value in attending and exhibiting at conferences like ConExpo, AGG1, DBIA, and DJI Airworks, there’s the uncertainty that conferences will remain on the schedule over the course of the next few months. Use this time to figure out how you can take your networking to the next level. Here are a few things Firmatek does to help us get to know our future clients at conferences:

  • Reach out to potential customers before While it’s common to reach out after, why not add another touch point in your relationship building and make plans to meet beforehand? Few take the time to do this, so the people that do reach out will stand out.
  • Make plans to hang out where you’ll be able to find other conference attendees. Assuming you haven’t made dinner plans already, there’s still plenty of opportunities to meet people during conference downtime. That could mean hanging out at the hotel bar, or the baseball game you’ve heard everyone is going to. You never know who you will end up meeting, and what business relationships you could end up forming.
  • While exhibiting, do something creative to draw people in. The standard conference move to make is giveaway pens, notepads, etc. While everyone else is doing that, what will make you stand out? Can you showcase your product in a way to catch everyone’s attention? Can people enter your drawing for a gift in exchange for a business card? Can guests play a quick game at your booth? What can you do that no one else is? Think outside the box, and you’ll be sure to get more potential customer’s attention.

Above: DBIA tradeshow attendees visiting the Firmatek booth.

The entire world is changing how they network and get to know their industry partners. Get creative and adapt to the ever-changing world. Firmatek is focused on adapting to new changes and continuing to serve our clients’ needs. It’s important that we continue developing new and current relationships so we can better serve our industry clients. At the end of the day, successful networking is really about relationship building.

About Kate Steger

Kate joined Firmatek in August of 2017. Prior to joining Firmatek, she worked at McCarthy Building Companies as a Preconstruction Estimator. During that time, she coordinated with subcontractors to ensure bid coverage, understanding of the respective scopes, and resolve any constructibility issues. She graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Construction Science. Kate is passionate about relationship building and connecting with professionals across the various industries Firmatek serves.

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