Listen to me. Seriously. Please.
Networking. Is. Not. Sales.
In the past few days I’ve had people tell me they want to know how to make sales at the networking event. They’ve said they don’t need networking, because they get their business through RFP’s, not face-to-face selling. I’ve even had one or two say their biggest challenge with networking is not knowing how to make the close.
That noise you are hearing is me choking back the sobs while I bang my head on the desk.
Don’t get me wrong. Sales is indeed a noble pursuit, it is the most fundamental activity in business. In fact, if you don’t have sales, you don’t have a business. For many of us, the reason we network is to get access to opportunities to sell and networking is really good at that. It’s just that networking and sales are not synonymous.
Here is a list of possible rewards you might find when you network properly.
- Business Development. Yes. Clients, contracts, customers — networking does a great job of connecting us directly to those who might want to buy or products and services. After that connection, though, a different set of skills comes into play — sales skills.
- Marketing. The better known we are, the more likely people will simply become aware of us by word of mouth. I’m occasionally surprised when I meet a new connection at a networking event and they say “Oh, you’re that Reluctant Networker guy. Yeah, my coworker was telling me about you just the other day!” This comes about, though, not when we tell everyone who we are, but by becoming someone they want to talk about, by being interested in them.
- Best Practices. You can network with your colleagues in your industry who might be able to help you solve some of the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis in your business. You get access to those words of wisdom by being willing to share your knowledge with them.
- Moral Support. No matter where you are in your career, having someone with whom you can talk about your day-to-day stresses — who is also in similar straits — can go a long way to alleviate the isolation many of us experience in our professional life. Of course, you should be there when they need a sympathetic ear, as well.
- Mentorship. Wherever you are trying to go in your life, someone else has probably already done that before. Rather than stumble in the same places they did, why not get some advice on how you can avoid those pitfalls. In return, you pay it forward to those are behind you on the trail of success.
- Resources. Recently I developed a touch of laryngitis the day before I was to leave for a speaking engagement. A friend in my network lent me her expensive portable speaker and microphone. She saved the day — and my voice! Of course, she might not have been quite so generous if we hadn’t developed that great relationship in the first place.
- Enjoyment. Networking really is the act of making friends on purpose. The more people you have with whom you can share your life, the healthier, wealthier, and happier you will be.
Networking can get you to the sales appointment, but it won’t make the sale. Beyond that, don’t forget all of the other reasons you should be reaching out to expand your circle. At the end of the day, it’s more about connection and community than about contracts and clients.
Image from Pixabay user geralt