You’ve probably all had the “used car salesman” experience at networking groups. I attend many networking groups in Portland and I have watched the process. You meet a new person, and doing the normal protocol, you politely ask them what they do. They immediately launch into a passionate pitch about how wonderful their product is and assure you that you’ll be dead next week if you don’t buy it. You politely don’t ask them anymore questions, hoping the conversation will end so you can move on. Or you wait for a break in their diatribe so you can blurt out that you need to find the rest room. As an after thought they might ask you what you do.
Ok- this probably sounds a bit judgmental. It’s not meant to be. I actually have compassion for people who don’t understand the difference between networking and selling. Many people are great at their service or have wonderful products but struggle to understand how to run a business. It’s like learning anything. You make some mistakes at first and then try again. One of the biggest mistakes is trying to sell to people before you build a relationship and before they have shown an interest.
If you feel passionate about your offerings you want to tell everyone, but if you tell everyone too much it can feel like a sales pitch rather than relationship building. In marketing there is an order to the process and when you follow the order people don’t feel pushed.
Networking happens toward the beginning and it’s only about meeting people and making contact. When you do get to the sales part- which is way at the end, it’s easy, because by then your potential client has made the decision and wants your information.
If you want to use networking the way it’s meant to be here are a few tips that can help even the best net worker be better.
1. Don’t blab on about yourself. Get to know the other person. Find out what they need. If you both do that, you will have to talk about yourself some but you will be very brief and turn the conversation back toward them. It will be more like a ping pong game without it getting stuck with one person holding on to the ball too long.
2. Move around the room. Chat with one person enough to feel like you’ve made a connection and then move on. A networking group is about building a network of relationships slowly over time. Think of yourself as a spider building a web and each person you meet helps the web to grow more beautiful.
3. Avoid talking too much about your products or services. If someone pointedly asks you, then request their business card and contact them later to ask if they want more information. A networking group is not the place to get deeply into it. Even if someone says they’re interested they won’t really be able to focus.
Networking is about building connections, making contacts and finding possible strategic partners. Once you have done that well, the selling process is half done without you focusing on it all. Make 2010 your year to overcome obstacles to your marketing and learn new skills on how ot build sustainable relationships.
Kaya Singer ownes Awakening Business Solutions
She teaches a seminar called Wake-Up Your Marketing