To new salespeople, especially those who are “accidental” salespeople, networking is the most difficult and challenging part of their job. They know they have to go various events and meet people to build a network. Their attempts range from the blatant which Dilbert is satirizing here, to the wallflower style that didn’t work real well in high school either.
There is a better way – Networking Transparently
First let’s all remember that everyone is at this networking event or meetup for the same reasons:
- Free food/beer
- To get out of the office for a bit
- To hear the speaker/content
- They are the speaker – or a sponsor – or the host.
- To sell something someday
That’s likely roughly in order of comfort level most people have with their role at these things. And that’s ok. Because again, Sales has become a dirty word. No one wants to be sold. No one wants to talk to the guy who is making it rain business cards like he’s at a Vegas club. (Do people still “make it rain?”)
But if everyone can take a step back for a minute and realize that you’re in a room full of people who have the same goals you do, and likely are just as worried as you are, you have options.
Step 1 – Invite them to go first
Let them pitch you. ASK for them to pitch you. “Hey man, nice to meet you, what do you do?” or “What does your company do?” etc. Let them give their practiced elevator pitch. They’ll be relieved that they get to say it at least once. Then you move directly into the next step:
Step 2 – Ask how you can help them
“That sounds cool, what types of
Step 3 – Your Turn (finally)
Ok now it is your turn. Here’s how you really win this situation. It’s going to feel weird to say this at first but trust me. “I’m here to look for people who are <2 to 3 criteria that outlines your best clients> for our service/product/startup/whatever, same as you right?”. It acknowledges that you’re both there for the same thing (remember he just told you that’s why he’s there), and it gets it out there right up front so that it’s even.
This isn’t super revolutionary, but you’ll be amazed at the comfort level it gives the people you talk to milling around before or after the event. The real powerful part is when you email them the next day or two – No three day before you call them rule here folks – you offer to help. You say “hey I know someone who is a good fit for you” or “Hey can I intro you to someone who may be a good partner for you?” or something.
Most of the time they’ll offer the same, maybe not right away, but now that you’ve given something, there is a part of their brain that will feel that obligation to reciprocate (read Influence
from Robert Cialdini for more detail on this). By having a giver’s mentality it will make you the kind of person that others want to have around and to help out.
So go out there and be honest with yourself and your networking companions. Give a little to see how much you can get back.