Do you ever meet people at networking events who are only interested in what they do and if you may be interested in buying from them? I know I do, but many of them just haven’t learned that networking and selling are different activities. Others will have been told that networking events are just sales opportunities.
For many people in business the idea of selling is scary or frightening. Some view the very idea of being thought of as a salesperson as something that is tacky or beneath them. These are real problems for many business owners because if you don't sell you don't have a business. This can lead people to approach networking in entirely the wrong way and act as if it as a quick solution to their selling woes. Instead of taking the time to build a network they treat everyone they meet as a potential prospect and put them off immediately. They may well end up believing networking doesn't work and outsource their selling (potentially wasting even more time and effort).
You can’t blame these people for behaving this way when no one has explained the best approach and they see some very confusing messages about networking. Some organisers of 'networking' events encourage people to see it as selling by advertising their events as your opportunity to network with 'decision makers' or to 'find your next client'. It doesn't help either when every available break at a conference, exhibition or other jamboree is called a networking opportunity.
The people who are effective at networking and selling treat them as different activities.
Networking is for the longer term and can lead to many more sales opportunities than if you treat everyone as a potential customer. It is an ongoing activity where you build a network of trusted relationships for support, information and business. A network of friends in business who look out for each other and who help each other succeed. Different people or groups of people will fulfil different functions in your network and you will do the same for them. The people who give you the best ideas or market intelligence may not be the ones who refer you to your target market. The ones who refer you are extremely valuable for your sales process and will have trusted relationships with your target market. They are likely to be providers to or clients of your target market.
Selling is interacting directly with your target market in order to sell them your services. Not to be confused with networking, but essential to the success of your business. Some of your prospecting is actually part of your sales process and not networking at all. Selling is the bit that happens after you have identified a prospect directly or have been introduced or referred by someone in your network. If someone in your network declares an interest in buying your stuff then that's an unexpected bonus.
Don’t be surprised that if you approach networking as a kind of 'soft' selling you will most likely be adding to your business development problems rather than solving them.
Until next time ...