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Conventional Wisdom: Making the Most of Mingling

If you're a successful Merchant Level Salesperson, then you're great at mingling, right? Walking into a merchant's store and closing the sale? No problem! So why do you come back from an industry convention wondering why you didn't get more out of it - and vowing that you won't go back?

For some people, trying to make new contacts at a convention is a bit like public speaking - they'll do it if they have to, but it's not their first choice. The big convention hall and large numbers of strangers make the experience feel more like a trip to the dentist than a pleasurable week away from the office.

If you don't easily connect names to faces, you're probably petrified that you might run into someone you've met only once ... and you can't instantaneously remember the person's name ... but he or she sure remembers yours. A fate worse than social death!

But just as there are common-sense ways to increase your sales success, there also are ways to maximize your convention experience. Call it the MINGLE Method:

Map Out a Strategy:

To be successful at sales calls, you've got to prepare, and the same goes for conventions. Make sure you know the agenda. Decide what you want to get out of it. Have it in your mind that you want to bring back at least two or three ideas. If you're nervous about remembering the names of people you might see there, get a copy of the registration list - most conventions have them - and review it. As you come across a familiar name, try to picture the face, too. That way, there's less chance you'll be dumbstruck in an unexpected encounter. If the attendee list includes the names of spouses, be sure to review those, too.

Introduce Yourself to as Many People as Possible:

The easy way out is to stick with your closest friends and spend the entire convention with them. But that's not the best way to get the most out of the event. Make it a point to seek out strangers - you never know when that new contact will pay off. When you go to a convention-sponsored meal, sit with people you don't know and strike up a conversation. Chances are, you'll discover some common ground and, maybe, the solution to a challenge you've been facing.

Network, Network, Network:

As you meet more people, don't let those new relationships fade into one-conversation-and-out oblivion. If necessary, review the business cards you've accumulated and try to recall the faces and something about each person - keep forging the relationships as you see some people again and again during the convention. Most conventions feature group conversations, and you want to know at least one person in as many groups as possible.

Go with the Flow:

Putting together a convention is a difficult, arduous task. Things aren't always perfect - the hotel might be overcrowded, the luncheon food might leave something to be desired, the air conditioning might be drafty. But don't forget that you're going to be around people who don't know you well. If they hear much complaining, your first impression might be a lasting impression - and stamp you as someone to avoid.

Learn from Educational Sessions:

This is your opportunity to hear from the best and the brightest. Don't let that opportunity slip away because you stayed up too late the night before. There's time for socializing and there's time for learning. Make time for both. Then, when you get back to the office, do a report on what you learned and how you're going to apply it.

Enjoy Yourself:

Let's face it, you're never going to get much out of the experience if you don't have a good time. Celebrate the new relationships, the food, the sights to be seen in the surrounding area. Go back to work rejuvenated and eager to mingle ... with your co-workers and customers.

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