Networkers: “No premature solicitation!” should be tattooed on your forehead!
For about 30 years, networking has been the word “du jour” or “d’année.” Everyone who is anyone in business networks. And while social media is huge these days, many still love to be part of face-to-face events.
They’re all networking.
Or so they think.
Back in the day, I thought I knew a lot about networking.
Before every event, I dutifully packed my business cards in my bag, determined to give every single one of them out.
I practised my “elevator speech,” so I could command someone’s attention and interest in ME immediately.
I prepared a bunch of examples to show how smart, capable, and worthy I was to be hired by the other person I was talking to.
It was all about me in those days.
And it didn’t work very well.
Luckily, others taught me the secret.
I learned to stop talking so much.
I learned to start listening a lot more.
It took a while, but I finally “got it.”
I learned that networking wasn’t all about me.
I learned to relax in the 1-2-1 meetings we all scheduled, and just go with it. Listen and talk. Get to know the other person without trying to sell anything I had, especially in the first meeting.
Savvy networkers know how valuable a 1-2-1 meeting can be as a way to find out about someone else, and even more important, they also know this: Building relationships is the first order of business.
People do business with people they know, like, and trust.
Liking and trusting are huge parts of any relationship, so if you’re not gaining what you want from your 1-2-1 meetings, see if anything below might help:
- Go with the intent to listen, not to talk. Find out about the other person. Ask questions. Be interested. Be patient. Your time will come to talk about your business. Or it won’t. But even if it doesn’t, your reputation as a smart, worthy professional will be maintained. And that can lead to others wanting to talk to you — about actually buying something!
- Put your products, your brochures, your whatevers away. A 1-2-1 meeting is NOT a sales call. You are not there to sell. You’re there to learn, to have a two-way conversation, to see how you can help each other. Give the other person room to ask questions about you, your service, your products. Talking business is fine. Selling is not, unless someone asks.
- Find ways to help. What professions does that person have synergy with? Who can you introduce them to? How does that other person help others? What can you say or do that will help the other person do better in their business?
If you show genuine interest in the other person, you’ll stand out as a business professional worth knowing. You’ll be memorable for all the right reasons. You might even make a sale in the future!
Let me leave you with this quote from Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI, who is also known as “the Father of Modern Networking,” which is as true today as it was years ago:
“Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships. Don’t engage in ‘premature solicitation.’ You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.”