Do you get clammy hands when you think of having to "sell" yourself and your products or services in a networking situation? If you are like most people, the idea of attending a networking event conjures up images of sore feet from standing too long, dread at having to break into established conversation groups, and piles of business cards that live in shoeboxes months after the event.
If you are well-trained, you have ready your 30-second "elevator speech" about what you plan to be doing in your new business, and you have even learned the art of approaching a clump of people. So why does it all feel so artificial and uncomfortable?
It was only when I let go of the idea of selling my services and replaced it with the concept of relationship-building that I began to enjoy and actively seek the chance to network. My biggest realization came when I understood that I wasn't actually selling my coaching services --- that the real product was ME.
When I am with my close friends, I am genuine, relaxed and at ease. I am "in relationship" to them. What if I were to start seeing all the people I was meeting as opportunities to create new relationships? Make new friends? Then I could just relax and be myself. Yes, I want to be able to tell folks what I do in a way that makes it clear. And yes, I want to build my business. But people like to do business with people they know and trust. How many times had I heard that one before?
Now my approach to networking is to view every interaction with someone as an opportunity to create a relationship. My focus is on being interested in and curious about the person opposite me. Most people love the chance to talk about themselves so if I am a great listener, and ask good questions, I will learn a lot about them.
Then I figure out what I can give away. Is it a referral to someone I think she will connect well with? Is it the name of a book he might enjoy? A website where I know he can get answers to his questions? Or a copy of an article I can send her? I consider a successful networking event to be one in which I walk away with more business cards and promises to send some information than I handed out.
Here comes the part that most of us forget about. Follow up!! It is stated in most sales and marketing circles that it takes at least 5 contacts with most people to get their attention, and then their interest in your service or product.
If you have done your job well, you will have collected some business cards and made a few notes on the card --- anything special to remember about that person or to remember to do for that person, such as send a website link or a copy of an article. As soon as possible, and I cannot stress this enough, follow up with him or her. Call, write, e-mail ---- show your reliability and trustworthiness by doing what you promised to do.
Create strong connections with others so that YOU are the go-to person when others need a referral. Slowly build a pool of people who can be a source of referrals, contacts and friendly advice!
The day will come when those people who have gotten to know you, and have experienced your genuineness and interest, will remember you when they need to make a referral or they want your service or product themselves. This is when your networking will pay handsomely.
Go meet people, relax and have fun, remove the stress of having to sell your product or service, and focus instead on building the best relationships possible!
Do you have any other great networking tips to share?