When was the last time you went to a networking because you wanted to be sold to? Do you check through the other attendees and make sure that you fit into their target market before you set off? Do you make sure to carry a purchase order along with your business cards, and take the company debit card?
Fundamentally, we go to networking events for our own sake and the sake of our own business. We prepare our 40 or 60 second introduction, we make sure we have business cards, brochures and pop up banners with us, promoting our own stuff.
Sure, those of us who get into networking learn that ‘Givers Gain’ and how important it is to be the first to bring value to each relationship. But even then, we keep it up because it becomes important to our business.
Recently in a Facebook group I spotted someone commenting that they only wanted to attend networking events where they would find their target market. They moaned that they had tried networking before but had always found that the events they had been to didn’t contain the “right sort of people”.
They were likening networking events to sales meetings, as a lot of people do, and the comparison just isn’t right.
If someone calls me and I agree to meet because I’m interested in their services or products, that’s a sales meeting. I’m expecting to be sold to. I’m expecting the meeting to be based around that subject. But that isn’t what people expect if they have a 121 with you at networking events. They expect a conversation, to build the relationship.
My advice, if you want to get to your target market at networking events, is to take the excellent advice Dale Carnegie gave in his 1937 book How to win friends and influence people:
You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.
Understanding that everyone was their for their own benefit and rolling with that, rather than trying to get everyone to be interested in me, was the biggest realisation in my networking career, which led to the biggest change in my behaviour and the biggest change in my results and return from networking. It isn’t even a long term strategy.
Being interested takes effort and, as with everything in networking, effort is currency. People truly respect the effort you put into getting to know them, rather than just selling to them and, as you put the effort into getting to know them, very often they reciprocate and want to get to know more about you and your business.
The more that you get to know the other people in the room and bring value to the relationship, the more likely they are to Know, Like and Trust you enough to refer you to their contacts who are your target market.
It’s almost like digging for buried treasure. I’ve watched people get within a couple of feet of the gold, then give up digging that hole and go off to start another one. People often spend a bit of time building relationships with networking colleagues, before ditching them and moving onto another networking group because they perceive there might be the ‘right’ sort of people there.
When you next go to a networking event, don’t treat it like a sales meeting. Remember that the people in the room aren’t your prospects. Put the effort in to build the relationships and the results will follow, and will be plenty enough to make your investment worthwhile.