Too often when people are networking they are proceeding with the thought that the event is their opportunity, and responsibility, to tell everyone about their product or service. The basis of this idea is that everyone they meet is a potential client. I’ve actually heard people say that they ask questions so they can tailor their ‘elevator pitch’ to the person.
Okay, I’m in favor of asking questions instead of talking. However, when those questions are solely focused on targeting for a potential sale, they are misplaced.
For example, if Suzie owns an insurance agency, she thinks that when she goes networking she should ask questions with an eye toward determining whether the person she is talking to has a need for insurance or is open to exploring the idea. I submit this is the wrong intent to have at a networking event.
It is more valuable to maintain the belief that the people you are talking to don’t need what you have to sell. That way you won’t be looking at them as your next kill. No one wants to feel like a conquest. And, frankly, not everyone you meet is a good client. Some people/companies aren’t a good fit and shouldn’t be pursued.
Suzie should go to a networking event to learn about people, about who they are, what kinds of problems they solve, how they work, what they are looking for, so she can build a toolbox of resources; of people she can connect to her clients and connections when they have a need outside of her area of expertise.
These people might end up being clients. But when you approach everyone you meet as a potential client you are always in selling mode. And no one likes salespeople. So, they may need what you have to sell but they don’t want to talk to you. They don’t want to talk to you because they know you are trying to sell them. They know it’s about you, not them. If you enter networking with the idea that it’s them, not you, and that your true goal is to just get to know them, the sales come. They aren’t going to come immediately because that’s not what networking is about. Networking is about building long term relationships with people.
Moreover, you will gain great resources, colleagues, potential partners, and referral sources. When you think about it, that’s really what you need in your business. So, your goal should be to learn as much about the people you meet as you can. This way you’ll know not only who you could refer them to but if you would want to refer them to anyone. And if you’d ever want to do business with them or have them as a client.
At the same time, you give them the opportunity to get to know you and develop a level of trust for you. Those relationships are the ones that help you grow your business over the long term.
If everyone went to networking events with the intention of selling to the people in the room, no one would go to networking events! Imagine what that would be like! Everyone would be pitching everyone they encounter. And everyone would be thinking, ‘Why is this guy telling me about his product? He doesn’t even know me.’ Exactly! That’s the point. Why treat others in a way that you don’t like to be treated yourself? Whenever someone starts telling you about their offering you instantly know they are more interested in themselves than you.
If you go to an event without the idea that you need to find the people in the room who are potential clients, you’ll be more relaxed, you’ll enjoy it more, and you’ll be able to be present in the moment so you can identify the people who would be good connections for you. Other people will want to talk with you and get to know you – because you aren’t trying to pitch them! Decide what you want to know about someone. What will give you insight into who they are? Remember, the goal is to discover as much as you can about the person you are talking to. Since people do business with people, the most important part of the equation is WHO the person truly is. That should be your focus.
Networking is about gathering as many resources around your business as possible. Some of them will turn into referral sources. Others will turn into resources you can share with others. Some might become customers while others might become suppliers. You never know. And that’s the point. If you are looking at everyone as a sale you are missing out on their true potential value.
Conversely, if you attend networking events with an eye toward simply learning, you change the dynamic. That change will result in a stronger foundation of connections for your business. And as time goes on and you further those relationships, you will make sales. They will refer you because they’ve gotten to know you. you’ll be able to refer them to people and thereby increase your value to the people in your world. The business you gain will be solid and meaningful. It will probably lead to even more solid business down the road. The people you meet will know, it’s not you who you are thinking about, it’s them.