It’s funny how in all aspects of our lives, our own mental framework can get in the way of our success

Networking is no different.

Even knowing that networking is the process of developing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships — basically the business version of making friends — a lot of people have a hard time forcing themselves to attend networking events. They have so many negative stereotypes of what it means to walk through the doors at a business gathering that the deck is stacked against their success before they even start.

Probably the worst of these is that it’s all about sales.

I know very few people who truly enjoy selling. I know even fewer who enjoy being sold to. If your image of the local Chamber of Commerce lunch is a bunch of people running around trying to wrestle each other to the ground in order to walk out with a signed contract, well, I can understand why you wouldn’t want to put yourself in the middle of that.

Here’s the problem. Those who adopt that mentality severely limit their ability to create a powerful network. If you are focused only on what the other person can do for you — especially if that involves giving you their hard-earned money — then any connection can only be through that narrow path. If money changes hands (or a contract is signed, etc) then there is a relationship. If not, then there isn’t.

Will there be people at the event who see you as only a potential prospect? Yep! There are ways to deal with them. The first thing you need to do, though, is address your own mental orientation. In this case, you’ll replace the Negative Stereotype, sales focus, with a Positive Attitude, relationship focus.

Having a relationship focus means you will see your fellow attendees as human beings — not prospects — each with his or her own dreams, challenges, and driving passions. When you  do this, you can potentially connect with them on a variety of levels, not just on whether they can buy from you. As you find more common points of interest or more ways you can help them achieve their dreams, you become a more important part of their lives.

Then a crazy thing happens. Because you are important to them as a person, your success becomes important to them. They look for opportunities for you. Suddenly, instead of selling to one person at a time, you are connecting with potential referral partners who each might bring you several people who are interested in buying from you.

All because you stopped trying to sell and started trying to connect.

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He has worked with businesses and associations, entrepreneurs and job-seekers to create a world of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at or

© Copyright 2013, The Reluctant Networker, LLC

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