You’ve probably heard about how people get most of their work from networking. In my previous business (sold at the end of last year) 80% of new business came through networking.
As you’re reading this you are either someone who is new to networking or you have tried it for a while and not had much success. Either way you are probably wondering if it is worth the time and effort.
There is nothing special or mystical about networking. You don’t need to have a natural talent for it – I certainly didn’t when I first started!
I almost shudder when I remember some of the mistakes I made when I first went networking. I was your typical first timer, turning up to events, rushing round trying to talk to everyone. Trying to sell, thinking everybody there was just waiting to buy from me. I would leave the event a bit disheartened that I hadn’t got a firm “yes” from anyone. Go to the next one, do it all again and time after time get rejections. I would return to the office and my wife would ask if networking wasn’t just an excuse for a couple of hours out of the office and in a pub.
However, despite not getting anything from the events, I knew it must be me doing something wrong. From then on, when I went to events, I watched and listened to others who were getting business. Over the next seven years, I built up much more experience and improved my skills, and now I would never think of getting business any other way. In fact, now networking is my business.
The #1 mistake most people make when they first go networking is they think networking = selling. Networking has nothing to do with selling, it’s about building relationships. You’ve probably heard the phrase “people buy from people”, but that needs expanding. It doesn’t mean “people buy from people they’ve just met” (or very rarely) it means “people buy from people they like, respect and trust”.
Building a relationship with someone doesn’t happen instantly, it is a process that can take days, weeks and even months. To help build the trust and respect you need to meet outside of the networking event; go for a coffee, catch up with a quick phone call, etc. Over time, their confidence in you builds and they begin feel comfortable about you and possibly ask you to quote for a job, or even refer you to others.
So, when attending an event, don’t go and try to sell to everyone in the room, find out more about their business and find out about them. If people think you’re there just to try to get people buying from you, then you’ll eventually be shunned, but go there with a view to learning about and helping others and people will start to like and respect you.