Who needs a target checklist? You, that’s who!
Everyone who has been reading me for a while knows that I believe in preparing for business networking meetings. I think that a check off list is the best tool to prepare for such meetings, whether or not you will have an idea in advance as to who will be at the meeting. Let me back track on that. You’ll need this checklist even more if you are going in blind. Make the checklist. Without doing this you are kind of like a hunter who goes into the woods not knowing what game he’s after. You don’t carry a rifle for hunting quail or squirrel but you won’t carry buckshot for deer or boars.
To make such a list you will need to really have a good look as to what kind of business you want to bring back home. You might think that you have a good idea in the first place but you can never go wrong with having another look at your prospective targets by figuring out how they’d fit in with your company goals. These should be easy enough to compare if your company has already thought this through. And you will find this in your company’s own write ups. Some places you can go to figure out what is important:
- Your company mission statement – Most companies have gone to the trouble to make their own mission statements, which should act like a constitution for decision making at all levels inside your company. Designating your target market would be no exception. Have a look at your mission statement. What does this tell you about who you should look for at networking meetings? Try to find companies and people who share the same targets and values. If your mission statement is written clearly enough this will leap off the page at you.
- Your own company website – Yes, your website. Most websites do in fact have some thought in their write ups. The website is in many ways a brochure for your company that is open for the world to see and can give you many leads as to who you should be targeting at network meetings. Two places you can get guidance for your target market are typically the About Us and Our Services pages. Virtually all companies have these pages, or their equivalents on their websites, though they may use different wording for the pages. Sometimes these pages are written in prose and sometimes they are in bullet points. Of course when the pages are in bullet points you the important points are written out for you already. However, if these pages are written in prose then you can pretty well break the main points out by paragraphs and / or main sentences. Prose pages take a bit more work but it isn’t that much to do at the end of the day.
Mind mapping is great if you still need ideas. If you already know how to mind map, great! You’re ahead of the game. If you don’t know how to mind map don’t worry. There are millions of pages and videos on the internet concerning how to make a mind map.
An important hint: Don’t think just services your company might need though. Keep the ever important geographical focus in mind. You might be fishing in waters that have been well fished before. If you need help in Germany but not in China then don’t cast your net out to China. Focus on Germany.
After you have done this first draft have someone else with a broad overview of your company to look over it. Ask them the following questions:
- What services did I leave out?
- Who did I miss?
- What should be cut out of the list?
One more consideration is the length of the list. How long should the list be? Well, how long should a piece of string need to be. The length should be determined by what is conveniently efficient for you. Ordinarily I would say to keep the list between three to five points to look for but this would be for a company that is scouting for one type services. If you are looking for services in more than one specialty then obviously it should be longer. But don’t let the length of the list get in the way of effectiveness. If need be make a separate checklist for each service you are looking for. After you have finished the lists leave them overnight and try to see tomorrow if you can condense them again. Keep in mind that the longer and clunkier the list the harder it is to find just the right target. The key to less points is to make them as succinct as possible.
Use a checklist. It’s provides clarity where your networking sales needs it.
Gary Dale Cearley is the Managing Director of Advanced International Networks Ltd. (AIN), one of the fastest growing and most dynamic business-to-business networking organizations in the world. AIN’s networks include AerOceaNetwork (AON), XLProjects Network (XLP), and AiO Logistics Network. Gary Dale has been in many facets of international freight forwarding for more than two decades from operations to sales to the owner of the first 100% foreign owned freight forwarding company licensed in Vietnam. The companies that he has been involved with have been both generalists and specialists. He has also worked from large European and Asian multinationals (Danzas and Hankyu Express) as well has small start up forwarders. For the past ten years Gary Dale has owned and operated AIN. He has lived in several major cities in four different countries and he is multilingual. Currently Gary Dale runs the AIN operation from Bangkok, Thailand, but travels the world over.