I attend a lot of local and national events. Trade shows like IFE, professional organization’s chapter events like ATD and local and national chamber events. These events have a lot in common. Most people attend to learn and network. The learning part may be accomplished but what I have discovered is the networking part is not.
Because we are creatures of habit and like to stay in our comfort zone we show up at these events, either with people we know or immediately find someone we know. If we attend alone, we work hard at not meeting anyone’s eyes so we don’t have talk to them or politely say hello and hurry off or pretend we are paying attention to the speaker. Now, some of us that are more outgoing will look up and try to find someone to meet and strike up a conversation but I notice that even salespeople who are typically more out going tend to find those they know and stay with them. None of this is good networking.
Sales 2.0 San Francisco
I have attended Sales 2.0 for a couple years in a row now, it is the leading industry event devoted to helping sales and sales operations leaders understand how to leverage Sales 2.0 technologies to enable better sales performance and results. The Sales 2.0 Conference focuses on the challenges and concerns of B2B sales and marketing executives. Need I say there were lots of sales leaders there. As outgoing as I am, I found it very difficult to meet the people I didn’t know unless someone I knew introduced me. Not because they didn’t want to meet me, but because they were not very open to meeting new people in general during the event. They sat with those they knew at meals, during the keynote and at the breakouts. If they sat down next to me they were very careful not to squish me and they said hello politely and then looked at their smartphone, program or straight ahead. If I struck up a conversation, most would engage. These are sales people! What?! How is it that they don’t know how to network?
This year I returned to Sales 2.0 as the MC and Chief Networking Officer. After several great conversations with Gerhard and Larissa Gswandtner, who run the conference, we decided that we wanted to put an end to the lack of networking.
The answer to this dilemma is what I call “permission based networking” and that is what I provided at Sales 2.0 in San Francisco. It was a huge hit. Attendees reported not just meeting new people and exchanging cards, but actually getting to know them. It was easier than you might think to get the participants focused on meeting new people. All I really had to do was give them permission to do it, “As your Chief Networking Officer my job is to encourage you to meet the people you don’t know. But I don’t just want you to meet them, I want you to get to know them. No selling. In fact you don’t even need to talk about your business at all.” Then I made it fun by asking them to take a “selfie” with each new person they met and post it on Twitter. It worked. The “selfies” were flying around twitter – we didn’t bring down Twitter the way Ellen did, but we made a good show. We had great compliments from the participants. They all reported feeling comfortable meeting new people, they felt like people wanted to meet them and they met more people than they had at prior conferences.
[Tweet “You don’t have to wait for me to give you permission to network. Give it to yourself. #Networking #NoSelling”]
You don’t have to wait for me to give you permission to network. Give it to yourself. At the next event you attend, walk up to the people you don’t know and strike up a conversation. No selling. In fact don’t even mention your business unless you are asked. Be inquisitive and learn about the other person. Once you have started the relationship, you will be in a position to do better follow up because they will be inclined to take your call the next day. Then you will continue to build the relationship determining whether they are someone you can do business with, collaborate with or develop into a referral source.
It’s a Waste of Time if you Don’t Follow Up
LinkedIn is one of the best ways to follow up from a networking event and continue to build relationships over time, IF, it is used properly. But back to the original problem, many people aren’t comfortable networking and really don’t know how. They try to SELL when they should be building a relationship. They talk about themselves, their products and their challenges instead of asking and listening and learning. They don’t have any real reason to get in touch so they send sales messages instead of adding value by sharing information.
I offered a free webinar teaching the 5 Secrets That Will Change Your Approach to LinkedIn Networking but I could have easily taught the same material about networking in general. The secrets apply to networking whether online or in person.
Want to learn some better ways to network? Here are 3 opportunities.
1. Register for my webinar Use LinkedIn to Network Your Way to Sales Success
2. Download my ebook Connecting Your Way to New Business
3. Join me, Your Chief Networking Officer, at Sales 3.0