Recently at a networking event, I was a bit nervous. I barely knew anyone, being relatively new in the area – which was the reason I went to this event in the first place. In addition, I had been at a couple of events which I already knew were not a good fit for me, so I was dubious about this one.
So I sat quietly at my seat and checked my email. A woman approached and introduced herself. “What do you do?” she asked.
“I’m a business and marketing strategist,” I replied. I thought it was straightforward enough, and I wasn’t sure exactly what the protocol was about what ‘elevator speech’ was expected. I figured if I needed to say more, I could explain how I focus on getting fast, profitable results.
But I never got the chance.
This woman immediately went into her ‘enrollment’ conversation. “Do you use social media?” “I’specialize in social media. How would it feel to know that you could double your income if you started using social media? What would you do with that extra profit?”
“Well, I do use social media, but I believe…”
She interrupted. “If I shared with you a more effective way to use social media – one that would make sales happen for you over and over again, wouldn’t you want to get started right away?”
“No?” she asked. “Surely, you said you like fast, profitable results. That’s what I would share with you.”
To be honest, I don’t remember how the conversation ended except I kept politely declining, but she walked away in a hurry telling me to enjoy the event. (I promise, I wasn’t rude!)
Of course a sales pro (unlike what she claimed to be) would say that she needed to pre-qualify me before trying to sell to me. But this goes deeper than that.
Clearly, she didn’t give a shit about me. She had no clue who I was (being new has its advantages), nor did she care. All she saw was someone new she could pitch to.
Networking events are NOT about selling… ever. And frankly, I am tired of people using them as such.
So let me share my networking ‘rules’:
- Networking is about building relationships. It’s not about sales; it’s about listening. When you meet someone for the first time, use it as an opportunity to get to know them.
- A networking event is not a time to see how many business cards you can acquire. Rather, it is a time to develop a few relationships that have potential.
- Do not go into a networking group looking for immediate gains…. that is, for favorable results for yourself. If this is what you are trying to achieve, you are networking for the wrong reasons and will be sticking out like a sore thumb.
- It’s quality, not quantity. I would rather belong to a networking group of two people who can help each other on a regular basis then have a large group of business people in it for themselves.
- Networking is a long-term project. Yes, I am all for fast results. But some things take time. Going from person to person to pitch or collect business cards without getting to know people isn’t going to work in this case. You need to establish your credibility first.
What are your networking rules? Share them in the comments below.