We all have things that bug us, right? Those things we hear others say that sound and feel like nails on the chalkboard. I’m going to share with you one of those things that really bugs me. I hesitate in doing it, though, because I know a lot of people disagree with me, but it has to be said.
Networking IS selling.
There. I said it.
And yet, whenever I attend networking meetings, the first thing I hear is, “This is just a networking meeting. You’re not supposed to sell.” And then we all sheepishly push our business cards back into our pockets hoping that no one saw us. We’re hoping that no one saw the hope in our eyes that someone might just be interested in purchasing our products or services that day.
You’ve heard that before, haven’t you? When you hear that, how does it make you feel? Does it make you a little angry? Kind of like, “I’ve spent all of this money to pay for my membership, my chicken dinner, my gasoline to get here, not to mention the time I am spending when I could be doing other things, and you’re telling me this isn’t selling? Really?”
Well, maybe you don’t feel that way (ha ha), but I do. And I think it’s ridiculous every time I hear someone say that you can’t sell at a networking event. Why else are you there?
And do you want to know the truth? You are always selling. The second someone lays eyes on you at a networking event, you are selling. When someone shakes your hand, you are selling. When you open your mouth to speak, you are selling, even if you aren’t talking about your products or services. You are always selling because people are constantly making judgments about you and whether or not they even like you. As the old adage goes, people do business with people they like, know and trust. People will buy from you if they like you, know you and trust you. So, are you selling at a networking event? Yes.
Knowing that you are always selling, I am going to share the three things you never want to do while networking and then my three tips to sell more at a networking event—without looking like you are selling.
Ready? I can feel your anticipation.
3 Things to Never Do at a Networking Event
1. Don’t hand your business card to everyone. This is exactly what people are talking about when they say, “Don’t sell at this networking event.” They just don’t want to receive a card if they don’t know anything about you because they are going to throw it in the trash. Instead, you want to connect with intention—have a meaningful connection—which I will get to in a minute.
2. Never stay with the people you know. This is obvious. You aren’t going to meet new people by staying in your comfort zone. Move away from the people you came with. Plan time with them after the event.
3. Never eat and drink at the event. This one isn’t so obvious. And I like to eat so this is a difficult one for me when I see food beckoning. However, when you are holding food and drinks in your hand, it is difficult to be present to the networking opportunities all around you. If you can’t avoid the food and drinks, then at least wait until you have reached your networking goal before you partake.
Now that you know what “not” to do, what can you do to sell more at a networking event? I’m going to share my top strategies with you—the strategies that my top clients employ to grow their sales.
3 Strategies to “Sell More” at a Networking Event
1. Set a networking goal regarding how many potential clients and strategic partners you want to meet before you leave—and give yourself a timeframe. When you arrive at an event, know exactly who you want to meet and make your way over to meet them. Be professional and persistent at the same time as you make your way over to introduce yourself.
2. Connect with intention and set appointments in the moment. Connecting with intention means you care about the person’s well-being and success and you know that if you don’t tell them about what you do (and yes, learn about what they do), you might be doing them a disservice. When you meet someone, introduce yourself and let them know the problem that you solve for your clients so they can immediately qualify themselves regarding whether or not you can help them. Continue to connect and learn more about them by asking them questions so you can learn more about what they do and whether or not you can help them (as your client) or refer clients back and forth as a strategic partner. Once you’ve discerned that you can indeed work with them, set an appointment in the moment.
3. Leave once you’ve reached your networking goal. If you want to get burned out on networking, stay until the very end. If you know you’ve reached your networking goal, congratulate yourself and leave and go spend time with family, friends, etc. Now, there might be times when you can make a case to stay longer. For example, you might not have met one of your target connections yet. Then, stay. Otherwise, go!
Bonus: It’s not all about you (That’s a relief, right?). The other important thing you can do is offer to introduce your new connections to other people they might want to meet. Bob Burg, bestselling author of “Endless Referrals” and “The Go Giver” said, “The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.” When you give, you receive. When you make introductions, you will receive introductions. When you connect with intention and help people by offering them solutions to their problems (through your business), your sales will grow.
I hope these tips and strategies help clarify how you will approach your next event and show you that it’s okay to sell. In fact, you are always selling! You can be extremely subtle and professional, though, and still experience outstanding success in what you do. Networking IS selling!