Networking can be great for sales... Networking can be great for career advancement... Networking can be great for job transition...
Networking can give you a headache if it’s not done well...
I read a post today in an online professional discussion forum about a networking event that the poster attended. He said that there were a lot of small business owners there, and he was constantly “getting pitched and pitched hard” as he met people.
I can definitely relate. I go to many networking events. And I have encountered many sales people, small business owners and other "experts” that love telling people what they need and what they should be doing about -- well, everything!
When I read the post, though, a part of me wanted to apologize on behalf of those small biz owners and sales folks. You see...
I am also one of the small business owners, and a lot of my livelihood depends on networking.
But I don’t "pitch" my services to people I meet at networking events. I found out a long time ago that is counter-productive.
When asked, I follow a system to tell them what I do and who I help, and then I listen to see if they want to talk further about it. If not, we move on to other topics.
I think there is no faster way to kill a relationship before it’s begun than to pitch to someone who may not be interested, or to assume that someone “needs” your product or service and then act prematurely on that assumption.
And this is important because...
Successful networking is all about relationship building. Not sales.
Let me put it another way:
The best way to get sales results from networking is to not sell.
Before you decide I'm just plain goofy, let me explain.
As I said, I do a lot of networking, and my business and sales depend on it. And I think I understand sales pretty well, having provided large group sales training sessions and one-on-one sales coaching for large well known companies as well as smaller, less known businesses.
I have taken what I've learned from my various business experiences as well as material I’ve studied and trainings I’ve attended, and combined them to develop workshops for others that also depend on successful networking and sales strategies.
Below is a snippet of some of the "Networking Do’s and Don’ts" that I’ve shared at those events, which have proven to go a long way to helping achieve long-term growth:
Do: - Be polite, respectful & honest. - Maintain a “helpful” mindset at all times. - Think about what you can do to help the other person, not what they can do for you. - Ask a lot of questions. - Enjoy learning about others.
Don’t: - Don’t “sell” without permission. - Don’t open with “What do you do?” because it limits rapport-building. - No matter how great your conversation was, don’t rely on them to contact you. Take the initiative to follow up.
I hope you find this information useful, especially when you’re at your next networking event.
All the best, Jason