The global pandemic put a hard stop on social interactions in the first quarter of 2020. Remarkably, much of the world has returned to working and engaging in-person. However, most businesses still require masks, social distancing, limited capacity, and experts continue to promote virtual events heavily .
Just one year since COVID-19 shifted the way we live and work together, the medical industry has made breakthroughs with several vaccinations available and more becoming accessible to people daily. This means, networking in sales face-to-face once again is on the horizon.
This is exciting but also intimidating considering no one knows what the post-pandemic world will look like. How will we meet and greet each other?
We’re not quite there yet, but as you prepare to open up your networking opportunities, these tips can help guide how you look at networking in sales and make decisions to safely connect in person:
Understanding COVID-19 vaccinations
There are currently three vaccines approved by the FDA for protection against the coronavirus, COVID-19.
Pfizer-BioNTech is available for people 16 years and older. It is administered in two shots given 21 days apart. Immunity is considered effective approximately two weeks after the second dose is received.
Moderna is available for people at least 18 years and older and is also given as two shots. The Moderna vaccination is administered 28 days apart and is also considered effective two weeks after the second dose.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen is the newest vaccination approved and available for people 18 years and older. The upside to this vaccine is it is a single dose and is effective two weeks after the shot.
It’s important to understand the efficacy of these vaccines is different. Pfizer-BioNTech has shown to have a 95% success rate in preventing serious infection and Moderna touts a 94.5% rate of effectiveness. While Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen current claims 66.3% efficacy, immunity is achieved sooner, and this vaccine proves effective against the asymptomatic infection.
Each vaccine has been offered to different people in different geographic locations and with varying risk factors and demographics. It’s impossible to know who has been vaccinated or how effective their vaccination is. The vaccine gives us hope we can use widespread immunity to gain control over COVID-19, but it’s too early to rely on vaccinations solely to prevent the spread of this disease.
What does this mean for networking in sales?
Because it’s still too soon to count on the majority of people being vaccinated or immune due to acquiring organic antibodies from overcoming the disease, event organizers are going to have to lean heavily on the advice of health officials. This means having a completed vaccination card is not going to necessarily give you a pass to connect and interact in person without wearing a mask and following other health and safety protocols.
Researching event safety protocols
Just one year ago, most companies were closed, and local and state officials placed mandates on events that could be held in person. There are still restrictions in many areas of the country, and most organizations in the US continue to require protective face coverings and keeping a safe distance of 6 feet or more in public.
It’s important you look into networking event information available online to learn about protocols related to the pandemic. Most likely, the organizers have declared if there will be a limit to the number of people able to sign up, whether there are restrictions from where you can travel, how vaccinations play into the equation, possible symptoms that would restrict you from attending, and what kind of face coverings are acceptable.
Consider your comfort level with the safety protocols outlined by the event coordinators. For example, if they have not recommended CDC-approved face masks be worn, or they have chosen to host the event indoors where social distancing will be difficult, you may want to look into another event or see if you can benefit from the event virtually.
Practicing safe in-person contact
If you feel comfortable attending an in-person networking event after reviewing the vaccination and safety guidelines, you should still prepare to interact a little differently than pre-pandemic. For example, shaking hands is going to be more awkward than it used to be. Physical contact may be strictly off-limits for most people regardless of how widespread vaccinations are at that time.
To play it safe, expect to abide by the social distancing rule you’ve been practicing for the last year. Instead of leaning in to show you’re actively listening, think about how you can show enthusiasm and attentiveness with your eyes. Perhaps you can be more expressive with your tone of voice or show you’re engaged by nodding your head more often.
Ahead of the event, you can work on these communication skills in conversations with friends and family. Get feedback on whether they feel you were present and pleasant to connect with despite the unique communication barriers.
Opting for virtual networking
There’s a good chance when all is said and done, you won’t feel comfortable with an in-person event even if you are vaccinated, or circumstances could change and the event could go completely virtual. This is no reason to worry! There are plenty of ways to prepare for a positive experience networking in sales through a virtual event.
Most likely, the event coordinators will provide plenty of information about what to expect along with lists of activities to sign up for and participants and speakers with whom you could interact. You don’t have to wait for this information to be posted to start preparing for a successful experience, however.
Virtual networking events have been occurring and improving over the last year. There’s a good chance someone in your current network has already experienced one.
Reach out to contacts in your network to see if someone is willing to chat about their experience with virtual networking in sales. Ask them to provide a quick list of dos and don’ts so you can feel more comfortable planning for making new connections online.
The good news is, this is not the first pandemic humankind has endured. While that evokes strong emotions, the takeaway is this too shall pass. You will have plenty of opportunities to make valuable contacts in the medical sales industry throughout your career. The most important factor right now is keeping yourself, your loved ones, and your connections safe and well.