Networking – it’s a marmite thing. You either love it and enjoy taking part or loath it and avoid it as much as possible!
If you place yourself in the latter camp and you’re not a fan of networking, ask yourself why? Maybe you don’t feel it would be beneficial for your business? Or could it be that you lack the time or confidence? Or are these excuses you tell yourself to avoid it?
From my experience, I’ve found that the real reason most people dislike networking is that they don’t like selling. Selling themselves, their business, their products and their services.
So, let’s dispel one of the biggest myths about networking – it’s NOT about selling.
The businessdictionary.com defines networking as “Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?”
Don’t waste a networking opportunity with a sales pitch.
At a networking event you have the opportunity to speak with people who offer something different to your core business. They’ll most likely be experts in their field, with different experiences, ideas, and attitudes. As a good networker you should make the most of the advice and connections, that you would not normally have access to or be able to make yourself.
Networking time is precious so spending five minutes recalling your freshly honed sales pitch means that you haven’t had the chance to meet with anyone else in the room. It’s a wasted opportunity for you as you’ve found out nothing about anyone else there. It’s also a wasted opportunity for the other attendees as you’ve been unable to demonstrate what you know and understand about their particular ‘pinch point’ or concern. Ultimately, you may have talked yourself out of a reason to reconnect after the event.
Networking is all about relationships. Taking the time to find out about others helps you to determine whether there are mutual foundations to build on. We all know that people buy from people; those we like and have established a connection with.
Here’s an example. Imagine you’re a social media expert (you may well be) and you’re in a room with the owner of a new start-up business. If you listen, you may find out fairly quickly that there is no marketing budget and they are concerned about how to reach and engage a new audience. This is a great opportunity to give some tips, offer best advice, and share ideas.
Do this and you’ll make a great first impression, as someone knowledgeable, approachable, and professional; an impression that will be remembered and hopefully talked about in all the best ways, of course. Importantly, it also gives you a reason to stay connected, reconnect, or follow up in the future.
If you’d gone in with the hard sell, the newly established business owner (with a zero budget) would have backed away, switched off, and found some else to talk to; someone who would listen and understand where they were on their business journey. A sales pitch wouldn’t have been appropriate.
So, the next time you’re at a networking event, leave your sales pitch in the office and start an open conversation. It’ll be a lot less stressful, you’ll feel more relaxed and in turn appear more confident and approachable. You may just learn something you didn’t know and be able to offer some advice that could reap rewards for the future.
Book onto a networking event today and try a different approach. I’d love to know how you get on.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I don’t like marmite!
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