On Friday night we had the honour and pleasure of being hosted by Air Vice-Marshal Ross Paterson, Air Officer Scotland, at 603 Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron Headquarters in Edinburgh, then at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and again afterwards at 603 Squadron. I was invited in my capacity of Non-Executive Director of Heroes Drinks Company and I was accompanied by my partner Susan Mallinder.
Reflecting upon the evening, I started to think about what we in sales positions can learn from the Royal Air Force? Quite a lot we’d say from our experience on Friday night!
We were warmly greeted by Squadron Leader Nobby Clark upon our arrival outside the building at 603 Squadron, then escorted inside where we were met by Ross Paterson and his wife Helen. I had never met Ross before, but he knew quite a bit about me including the fact that I had worked in banking in the past.
After a few minutes chat, Helen brought us into the reception and introduced us to some other RAF personnel and their spouses.
Throughout the evening all of the (basically military, and essentially RAF) people we met were completely inclusive, very friendly and genuinely interested in Susan and I and what we did as individuals. We also met the Chairman and Chief Executive of the RAF Benevolent Fund who were equally friendly, welcoming and interested in us.
They were all fantastic adverts for the forces and the quality of people that comprise them.
So what can we as salespeople learn from this experience?
• How many networking events go to the effort of having you met outside the venue? We felt very welcome and comfortable even before we went in.
• Being met by the senior person on the way in to the event re-affirmed this welcome and our comfort.
• The fact that the wife of the host personally introduced us to other guests broke the ice in a way that made discussion very easy and natural.
• The Air Vice-Marshal knew about me and my background, he had certainly done his homework!
• Networking events are often very cold and can be intimidating. This was the opposite.
How often do we go to this much trouble when we host networking events?
Do we take the time to introduce people to other people we might know events? (Whether we’re hosting the events or not?)
When do we ever do research on other guests?
How welcome do we make other guests feel?
The RAF people exhibited superb sales & relationship building skills at this event, skills that would be absolutely relevant for all salespeople. This was one of the best networking events I’d attended for some time, even though it probably wasn’t considered to be a networking event!
In summary, We believe that whilst the military is obviously focussed on the collective, there is an awareness of the individual and their specific needs. I guess you’re only as strong as your weakest link!
PS – The Tattoo wasn’t bad either!