I am constantly giving the advice to entrepreneurs to network, network, network. I tell business owners to get out of their comfort zone and go out and network. When I say network I don't mean to go out and broadcast your services or to do hard sales. To me networking is about creating relationships, to get to know others and to let them get to know you. It is not about trying to get that person to be my next client. It's about making friends and building social capital. You never know who knows your next client or where your next referral might come from.
I recently had a networking experience that felt "icky" to me. How can I explain this? I met a man at an event, he heard me talking about Twitter and social networking (many of you know how much I LOVE to talk about this subject, I get a little passionate when doing so) anyway he asked me for my card and said he'd like to hear more about what I do. The next day he called and asked if I wanted to get together and have coffee to network some more. Being the networking advocate I am, I said yes.
When I arrived for coffee he introduced me to his colleague, explaining they had other meetings to attend today so she came along for this one as well. I thought great, I get to meet another person. They asked me all about Twitter, my blog, social networking and I blabbed on and on talking about being authentic, about how it's not about sales but is about relationships, they agreed and said they loved the concept because that is how they practice business.
About 15 minutes in to our conversation, I asked him why he wanted to meet today, if he just wanted to hear more about what I do or if he had any questions. Suddenly, his colleague took over and dove in to a total sales pitch trying to sell me a service I did not need, nor want. She went on and on, while the wheels were turning in my head and I was slowly realizing what was happening...
I was thinking to myself, did they even really care about what I do? were they here to sell me their services? I felt like a big dummy for going on and on about social networking. Maybe I was too presumptuous myself and should have spent a little more time at the beginning of the meeting to check in with them.
Meanwhile she is still talking about all the benefits of what they do and how much I will benefit from it. Then she said, "so tell me how we can help you?". I looked at her confused and said, "I'm not looking for help, I'm here today because he invited me. I'm not looking for X services, I don't need them. Thank you". I'm not going to bore you with the rest of the conversation but it just didn't sit right with me. We were all polite to each other but by this point I felt like they weren't being authentic, I felt they didn't really care about what I did, they just smiled politely and kept asking questions to keep me talking. I may be totally wrong, because they seemed like really nice people, perhaps they did care about what I do and they just have a different style of networking but I came out of the meeting feeling icky, which means I'm probably not going to use their services and I'm not going to refer them to my large network of friends.
I'm telling this story not to criticize these people but to share with any of you who may be wondering why you haven't "sealed the deal" lately. If you are having trouble "closing the sale" with clients maybe it is time to take a step back and look at your own approach to networking.
If you are going to invite someone for a meeting to try to sell them your services please let them know in advance. Maybe even find out if they are at all interested in your services. Time is precious these days.
My advice is to network, network, network but please be authentic when doing so.
After re-reading this, I realized I'm being a little hard on these people. I'm sure they are good, nice and caring people. I'm not saying people who do hard sales are bad people, just saying they may want to re-evaluate the way they look at networking and sales. It's totally fine to share what you do and talk about your business but that is different than trying to convince someone they need your services.
I'm stepping off my soap box now. Thank you for listening.