The biggest mistake that most first timers (and even a few experienced networkers) is to think they have to “sell”.
At networking events, they go up to other people in the room and constantly bombard them with information on their product or service, thinking that this is what networking is all about.
Have you been networking? Have any of the following happened to you:
You’ve bent down to get some marketing material out of your bag or case, or turned to pick up your drink from the table, and when you’ve turned back or looked up again the person you were talking to has gone?
You attend regularly but find that many of the regulars seem very reluctant to talk to you? They don’t want to make eye contact and if you do join the group they’re talking with, they quickly withdraw?
You are told by someone “Stop trying to sell to me!”
If these things have happened, maybe you need to look at your technique. These three examples are not extremes, I’ve seen each of the happen at networking events I’ve attended or organise.
One of the groups that I regularly attend has two men and a woman, (all with different businesses but all very aggressive) who do all they can to try and sell to people. I’ve watched the woman, for example, look round the room, and when she sees a group sharing a joke, she quickly approaches and joins in the laughter (not having actually heard the joke) in the hopes that she will then be part of the group. Of course, what usually happens, if the group is made of regulars, on seeing her, she is usually excluded or the group splits up – often not very politely, leaving her standing there.
There will always be those who think that the secret to selling it to keep going on at people until they get a “yes”.
One of the chaps mentioned above attends two of the networking events I run, and I’ve had people come up to me and say “I got so fed up with him selling to me that I just walked away while he was getting something out of his case” or “He is so annoying all he keeps doing is trying to sell to me”.
I’ve had a chap come up to me and say “So, Ashley, what’s the name of your business?” (it’s printed clearly on my badge). When I said “BananaOffice Networking”, he immediately replied “Oh great! I’ve been wanting to talk to you.” then, hardly pausing for breath, he launched into how I personally could profit from his business. He finished by looking at his watch and saying “Oh gosh! I’ve got to go, my car’s on a meter and it’s nearly run out”. He made for the exit, stopped just before getting there to speak to someone else. He then spent 10 minutes telling them how they could benefit from his business. Therefore, his bit about the meter nearly running out must be his way of getting away from someone so he doesn’t have to hear what they say. He’s told them what he does, got their card and left them. He probably goes back to the office or home, thinking he’s had a great day’s networking. I wonder how many clients he actually gets.
So, remember, networking isn’t about going to the event to sell, sell, sell. You are building a relationship with the person you are talking to. You are giving them the confidence to trust you and your business so that if they, or one of their friends needs what you’re selling, they will remember you. If you go in being pushy, you will still be remembered, but for the wrong reasons.