At a networking event not too long ago for which 500 people attended, the speaker who was on stage directly before my presentation asked the audience, “How many of you came here hoping to do some business today, maybe even make a sale?” The overwhelming majority of the people in the audience raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something today?” Not one person raised a hand.
This is what I call networking disconnect. I find it ironic that people are so “disconnected” about a process that’s intended to be about connecting people. This kind of disconnect leads to poor results, which in turn leads people to believe that networking doesn’t work. From what I’ve experienced over the past 26 years, along with the results I’ve witnessed with hundreds of thousands of people around the world -- networking works just fine.
My advice: Do not confuse direct selling with networking. Of course, there is always someone out there who says, “But, Ivan, I’ve made sale before by attending a networking event.” I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen, but it occurs about as often as a solar eclipse. You’re crazy if you think the odds are in your favor to “sell” at a networking event.
So why go to a networking meeting? You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Sometimes you go to increase your visibility and to connect with people you have never met. Sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know. And sometimes you may go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the relationship process and not just about closing deals. Visibility leads to credibility which, with time and effort, leads to profitability.
In order to make your networking efforts work, you need to embrace a “relationship networking” mentality. Here are five things to remember when attending networking events:
1. Don’t go there to sell, go there to connect.
2. Have meaningful conversations with people you meet.
3. Follow up with people you found interesting or who you can help in some way. Don’t follow up to sell them something.
4. Meet these people in a one-to-one setting, learn more about them, and ask them: “how can I help you?”
5. Go for the long-term relationship, not the short sale.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.