I was speaking about the power of networking to a group of baby product sellers. One of them pointed out that he had never seen a pregnant person at a networking event.
That pretty much sums up what most people get wrong about networking.
Raise your hand if you know someone who is pregnant…
That’s a lot of hands and a lot of people to whom he could have spoken and gotten results.
A BUYER IN A SEA OF SELLERS
A friend of mine was doing a keynote address prior to a networking event. He asked everyone who was hoping to sell something that night to raise their hands. Every hand in the room went up immediately.
He then asked who was there to buy… crickets…
He then delivered the most powerful message, “The first one of you who switches sides and becomes a ‘buyer’ will have the most successful evening.”
Anyone who has ever told you networking is a waste of time made this mistake. He or she went to an event hoping to find an end user and make a sale. Networking is about making connections, not making sales.
The first person who becomes a buyer instead of a seller is the one who will have the fullest dance card and make the most meaningful connections.
MAKING CONNECTIONS THAT COUNT
When I attend a networking event, my goal is to meet two new people and truly understand what they do. One of the best networkers I know keeps a stack of blank cards on her desk. Every morning she takes out the business cards she farmed at the previous night’s event and sends each person a handwritten card acknowledging their meeting.
Once I make a connection, I scour my own contacts to see if there is someone I know who might need their services. If I can refer someone to them, it solidifies the connection. It also creates a sense of reciprocity and they will look for a chance to send someone my way.
Follow this simple plan and you’ll grow your network by leaps and bounds:
- Meet two people and meet them well. Meet too many and you don’t have the time to get to know them enough to recommend them to your contacts.
- Ask more than you answer. The best way to get to know people is to ask and listen. Only talk about yourself when directly asked.
- Send a handwritten card the following day to the people you meet.
- Refer someone to them for their services.
Growing your network raises awareness of your business. Growing your network gets you referral business. Growing your network helps you find new resources for your business. Growing your network introduces you to people who can help you grow personally and professionally.
Networking is a powerful tool for your business when you do it right. Now you know how to do it right. Put this in your retail toolbox right now.
PS I’m not good at handwritten cards, but I am a sucker when I get one. My immediate reaction is to think of the person who sent it as someone with their act together, with whom I hope to do business. That’s the reaction you’ll get when you force yourself into this habit.
PPS When I quit trying to be a seller, I also found I have a lot more fun at networking events. Everyone wants to talk to me. Everyone wants to meet with me. Plus, I meet a lot of interesting and fascinating people. It is amazing what a difference listening instead of talking can make.