I’ve been going to business networking meetings for quite a while – over 18 months.
If you go to quite a few of them, you’ll find they’re really good in terms of helping you to expand your team of collaborators (I’ve expanded the pool of graphic designers, web designers, photographers, videographers, marketing specialists I work with), finding work, and just making new friends.
One thing I’ve found though – and I realised this from the off – is there’s certain approaches to networking that do and don’t work.
One thing that definitely doesn’t work, is going straight into these meetings, as a virtual unknown, and immediately trying to sell to people: ‘buy my service, buy my product’.
It puts people on the back foot. It tells me that someone sees me as just a pile of cash, before they’ve even asked what I do or gotten to know me. I’m just a transaction.
I guess this is a fairly easy view for me to take, as I can’t really sell my service as a commodity: I don’t have ready-made chunks of copy to sell. The copy doesn’t exist ’til I’ve written it.
The way I tried to explain it when I spoke to Stefan, and others, was: don’t treat networking like dating, or going to a nightclub, where you’ve gone out with that horrible mindset of ‘gotta pull tonight, gotta pull tonight’.
In the case of networking, the same mindset means walking into a room, thinking; ‘gotta do business today… gotta get something out of this meeting’
As with when you do this in bars/nightclubs, your desperation comes across, and – in most cases – you just go home with nothing.
Networking is a slow burner. Get to know people first, become friends with them, use their services, and further down the line you’ll get some business out of it.
Simply put, I can’t recommend you if I don’t know you, what you do, or why you’re good at it, and I expect people to view me in the same way.
Unfortunately, if you sell to me straight away and/or I can see you funneling my answers to questions, and ‘handling my objections’ (I worked in media sales, many moons ago), I just shut down.
I’ll be moving away from business networking shortly, as I’m going to be aiming at a very niche audience, and I may be taking on roles that don’t allow me to be free in the morning (when most networking meetings are held), but I can’t knock it: I’ve got business from it, made great contacts, and made friends.
I highly recommend giving it a go, but – whatever you do – don’t just go to meetings ‘on the pull’.