It's all about who you know
May 13, 2017 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm a freelance travel consultant and am doing more networking recently to grow my client base. I'm specifically targeting high income luxury travelers. This week I have meetings with two C-level executives at a major Fortune 100 corporation, and I want to make the most of the opportunity.

My strategy at a networking meeting is typically to have a little small talk first, then talk briefly about my business and the benefits of using me, and then explain that I'm networking to expand the circle of relationships and potential clients. Then the person usually names a few people they know who travel a lot and suggest that I contact them.

Here's where I start to feel awkward. That part of the meeting takes about 5 minutes - then I have nothing else to say or contribute to the conversation. It seems like a waste to meet with someone for only 5 minutes, so I don't want to get up and leave so quickly. How can I make better use of the meeting time and opportunity?

A couple details: I was referred to these two people by a current client, also an exec at the same company, who has used me for several trips and is very happy with my services. One of them I have met several times before, the other I don't know at all.
posted by kdern to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Meetings with C-suite executives at major companies are often scheduled to be very, very short because they are busy people. If you only need 5 or 10 minutes, only schedule 5 or 10 minutes.

That said, as a former non-travel consultant, I notice that your description of this meeting doesn't include any time in which you ask them about their own travel history, travel plans, travel needs, etc. It's much easier to sell people on your services by being specific to what they need and want than by generically describing your offerings.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:00 PM on May 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

Yeah, let them do most of the talking. Ask some open-ended questions and then sit back and, if possible, take notes. Big shots like this generally like to hear themselves talk, and it's a general rule of conversation that the more you let the other person talk, the more fondly they'll remember the conversation.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:02 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is all about who you know, but it is actually all about how well you do your job. Your best referals will come from a job well done. If it were me, I would ask about their possible upcoming specific travel plans and ask about what their family likes to do on vacation, etc. At the end, ask if they can give you any other referrals. Just collecting names without a positive review will be less effective than an actual endorsement as this meeting is. Your current client recommended you to them.
posted by AugustWest at 4:44 PM on May 13, 2017

I think I'd want their impression of me not to ride on my sitting, listening, and taking notes. Obviously you're doing this to make a living but what if you followed up after the meeting with a whiz-bang travel itinerary that showed you were really, really listening to what they were saying in this introductory meeting, and (maybe more importantly) were taking it a step further to offer them something they might not have considered before?

I'm no C-suite exec, but that would make me sit the fuck up and take notice.

The thing I might leave them with is an invitation to secure your services and/or to pass your name to people who might be interested in what you offer.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:18 PM on May 13, 2017

Thank you for the feedback. Here's why I didn't include plans to ask about their personal travel: I've been told that when networking, the best approach is never to ask for business from the person you're meeting with, but to ask them who they think I should talk to and who could be a potential client, and then to do the same with them.

I'm kind of new to networking - is that an unconventional approach?
posted by kdern at 6:15 PM on May 13, 2017

"never to ask for business from the person you're meeting with, but to ask them who they think I should talk to and who could be a potential client, and then to do the same with them"

if you are doing this with everyone you meet, when do you actually talk about someone's personal travel?
posted by alchemist at 11:05 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Even if you don't directly ask them for business in the meeting, most people enjoy talking about places they've been. If you're not coming away from any of these meeting with a sense of whether or not someone would be a good client for you, what's the point? Yes, you don't want to turn a networking interview into a heavy-handed sales pitch, but you have to be getting something more out of the encounter to make it worthwhile.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:51 PM on May 13, 2017

Could you ask them about past or future travel or their interests, and then make a general suggestion based on that that also shows how you would add value to their travel? Like "sounds like you are into adventure travel in tropical locations, have you ever been to X? You might enjoy the windsurfing since hang gliding was so memorable for you." But you aren't saying "So if you book now I can get you four days of windsurfing."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:02 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

You don't have to ask them for business directly, but yeah, nothing bad can come from getting them talking about traveling. Best case scenario, you can get them to tell you an actual trip they'd like planned, and you can convert the business. Worst case scenario, you know what they like and don't like so that you'll be ready when they want to work with you in the future.

I absolutely agree that follow up communication is critical. Don't do a full itinerary on spec, but yeah, tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them, recap the conversation a bit, and then it's ok to ask for business and/or referrals.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:25 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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