It was Wayne Dyer who said;

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”

I try to apply this wisdom daily as I’ve found that the benefits that come with being ‘open-minded’ are many. Yesterday, was one of those opportunities…

The LinkedIn post said; “Networking in a relaxed environment. No Pressure, Pitching or Selling, guaranteed!”

What is it about the combination of selling and networking that seems to divides opinion?

As a business owner who attends networking events and a sales trainer, I’m well qualified to offer an alternative perspective on the troublesome issue of selling and networking.

Ironically, the most important point to recognise from the outset is that selling at a networking event is virtually impossible. Professional selling is a structured and logical process which statistically takes more than six ‘touches’ or interactions between buyer and seller before a buying transaction takes place. This clearly isn’t going to happen at your typical ‘musical chairs’ Net-fest!

However, if like me you believe that the number one objective of attending a networking event is to find people who want to buy what you offer, then perhaps you can accept that Networking is ultimately a place where we must engage in the process of selling if we are to achieve that objective.

Given this and sympathetic to Networking Organisations who are trying to create an environment that caters for everyone, here are three alternative perspectives which support why selling at a networking event makes sense and how it can exist to compliment, not conflict with the social norm. 

  1. Talk to people about the problem you solve

The profession of selling is all about helping other people make the right decision about whether or not their life would be enriched by owning the product or service you offer. To do this, we have to get the person’s commitment, both physically and mentally.

Genuine commitment comes when people listen to you with their eyes as well as their ears, they ‘lean in’. To do that, we must embrace the fact that we are all motivated by self-interest and put ourselves into the conversation going on inside the other persons head.

TIP: Rather than tell people what you do, share the big problem you solve. We’re often more engaged by a problem than a solution, so play to that strength and engage them! Done well, in less than thirty seconds, you will have established if they do experience the problem or they don’t.

In the sales profession, we call this qualifying. That’s what sales professionals do and that’s why selling at networking events is something worth considering.

  1. Be Unique

The “so what do you do?” question is guaranteed to come, but very few people prepare for it and as a result, fail to take advantage of it when it arrives.

A hesitant reply lacks conviction and can commoditise through generalisation. The standard “I’m an accountant” or “I’m a PT” reply could pigeon-hole you with everyone else in your industry. The risk with this is obvious. If the other person has had a negative experience in the past with a PT or thinks accountants are over-paid, you can expect that preconceived ideology to apply to you too – it’s human nature.

TIP: A better idea is to reply with what makes you unique. This is the one thing that you do that others in your industry don’t but wish they could. In doing so, you distance yourself from the competition and position yourself as premium.

In the sales industry, this approach is adopted to avoid price from becoming the focal point of the sales conversation. That’s what sales professionals do and that’s why selling at networking events is something worth considering.

  1. Out with the old and in with the new

You may be meeting the same people each month at your local networking event. Organisers claim this creates the opportunity to build long-term relationships. Some even make this part of their value proposition, but for me, whilst building long-term relationships is crucial, I question why that needs to be confined to the event?

Once the relationship has been established, why do you need to wait for the next ‘meet-up’ to come around before continuing it? In fact, by waiting for the next event to be the catalyst for the next conversation, just consider what that is saying about theirs and your commitment to the objective?

TIP: If there seems like there could be a good fit between you and your new contact, agree a date to meet or talk on the phone to progress the conversation and free up your valuable time at the networking event itself to meet more new people.

In the sales industry we call this prospecting. This is what sales professionals do and that’s why selling at networking events is something worth considering.

In conclusion, there will be many great networking providers in your area and all of them can create an opportunity for people to meet and start conversations and that should be applauded.

For sure, you could decide to approach networking ‘passively’ and still get the results you want. But in my experience, the combination of being yourself and leveraging this with the right sales approach, will deliver an even greater return on your networking investment.

So rather than dismiss selling, maybe more networking organisations should embrace it? They might be amazed at the shift in results that follow for their customers.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog on selling and networking, and want more tips like these, head over to the website and check out the free resources page

The Author: Matt Sykes is author of the book Sales Glue and Founder of Sales Training company Salescadence. His aim through the training he provides is to help Sales Professionals perform at their mental best in both their business and personal life.

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