Networking is vital for most salespeople, but often it isn’t nearly as productive as we need or would like it to be. We invest our time in events such as chamber meetings, meetups, business card exchanges, trade shows and beyond, yet rarely do these meetings convert to sales.

Yes, I said it…sales. I know, I used that taboo word when it comes to networking. But think about it – did you leave your family at home on a Tuesday night so you could try to meet a new BFF? Of course not, and neither did the other 42 people in the room. You are all there to get new business, a.k.a. sales.

The key here is NOT to attend the event looking for your next prospect but to go with the mindset that you’re there to meet people with whom you can reciprocally refer business. The goal is to schedule a follow-up meeting, often over coffee, to get to know each other better and explore ways you may be able to help one another. But this 2- to-3-hour time investment often isn’t nearly as productive as it could be. You both describe the value you bring to your respective clients and ask, “Who do you know that could use my services?” And… you both go blank.

Sound familiar? We can easily increase the productivity of this meeting through leveraging an effective digital sales technique with LinkedIn.

If you aren’t connected on LinkedIn with your new networking partner, your first step would be to customize and send this note:

XX, I‘m looking forward to our coffee meeting next week. In the meantime, please feel free to look through my LinkedIn connections and make a list of people that you might want to meet. I’ll do the same and we can review our lists when we’re together.

Once you’re connected, here is how to proceed (and by the way, you can copy and send them these steps – they will be so grateful!)

1.    From the profile, look at the top right corner and click on See connections.

2.    Click on All Filters and in the Title box, paste your search string of the people you would like to meet, i.e. “CIO” OR “CTO” OR “IT Director” and click Apply.

3.    Choose other relevant filters on the top bar such as Locations or click All Filters to include additional criteria.

4.    Make a list of names your networking partner knows, that you would like to meet.

When you are together for your networking meeting, here’s how to proceed:

1. Review the list of names you’ve each created, and whittle them down to a select few that are the best fit.

2. Exchange introduction templates, i.e.:

I’d like to introduce you to Brynne Tillman, CEO at Social Sales Link. I thought it might make sense for the two of you to connect and investigate how you might work together. Brynne helps business owners, entrepreneurs and sales teams build their pipeline, reduce the sales cycle and close more business through leveraging the power of LinkedIn. She really understands how to Monetize LinkedIn and has created programs that have made a significant impact on the way professionals are growing their business. Brynne will be contacting you in the next couple of days, please take her call; I believe it will be well worth your time.

If you would like to reach out to Brynne, her contact information is: brynne.tillman@socialsaleslink.com | 215.499.0499 http://www.linkedin.com/in/brynnetillman | @BrynneTillman

3. Copy your networking partner and each person you’re introducing, in a LinkedIn message or email with their paragraph, and have them do the same.

4. When the introduction is made, Reply All, and customize and send the note below and connect with the new person on LinkedIn:

NETWORKING PARTNER, thank you for the introduction.

NEW PERSON, I am looking forward to speaking with you and sharing LinkedIn insights that can help you grow your business. To make scheduling a call easier, here’s a link to my calendar: http://15withBrynne.com, Please pick a time that works best for you.

Now, your networking meetings may become the best use of your time. It’s amazing what a little LinkedIn can do for your pipeline!