Much of what you do to market your business is designed to start a conversation.
When I was an estate agent and we advertised in the Oxford Times every week, we did so to start a conversation with the people who might want to buy or sell a house. Pre-internet the adverts were really an invitation for people to call us, or call into our offices and talk to us.
Learning to get better at business networking is actually about learning to get better at those conversations and particularly how to engage, and how to drive conversations if you want to do business with someone.
I’ve talked a lot recently about the sales funnel (One thing that most people get wrong in networking) and how and why it is important to actively work with your prospects, rather than just let them fester.
Learning to be better at networking is learning to be better at those conversations. If you actively set out to get better at networking, to sometimes use the networking environment counter-intuitively, to use it in ways that other people don’t. If you actively do that, you are also working on the skills which help you to improve your engagement, conversation and sales skills.Think about a typical sales process:
- You start a conversation
- You establish, either quickly or over time, whether the person may be interested in your services
- You introduce your services to them
- You ask them if they want to buy
The whole of the world is now networking 24/7 thanks to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other platforms. If you’re using networking events and social media for your business these four steps are exactly what you’re doing, or at least should be doing.
Networking, used right, is a fantastic environment to learn, develop and hone these skills. Much of the value I have had from networking has been having the opportunity to develop my sales technique and process in a safe environment, over a period of time.
I talk a lot about networking skills, and I wonder if people think that it doesn’t apply to them, as they don’t “go” networking. But it does. And they do.