When attending a networking event we have three basic attitudes we can adopt. Each has its own advantages. Sometimes, though, the disadvantages of an attitude should steer us in a different direction (especially when we evaluate them from a “golden rule” perspective). Let’s look at the three approaches.

  1. Sales. We advertise our services and look for people to buy them. We define success by the number of clients we can rope in.
    Advantages: Well, assuming we can actually close a sale during the event, we do walk away with money in our pockets.
    Disadvantages: Almost without fail, if someone can close a sale on such short order, they are probably using “hard sell” tactics. No one likes to have this done to them. Not that people will run screaming from us, but they probably will run silently.
  2. Marketing. We spend our time chatting with people and educating them about what we do. We hand out as many cards as possible in order to spread our brand far and wide.
    Advantages: We certainly won’t drive away people like the “Sales” guy does. Some people might be interested and may even be able to refer us to others.
    Disadvantages: They probably won’t. Most people aren’t that interested in us and our products. Our card will end up in the pile on their desk or in the garbage can on the way out the door. While we may not offend anyone, we certainly won’t excite them either.
  3. Networking. Our conversations with the other attendees are for the purpose of finding out about them. We ask for cards where we think we could create a good mutually beneficial relationship. Advantages: We don’t have to worry about what we are going to say, because we are going to be asking questions. Instead of clients we are gaining ambassadors who will look out for our interests because they actually like us. Connecting with the purpose of developing these relationships is the best way to have them pass referrals to us.
    Disadvantages: We almost never walk away from the event with a sale nor are we spreading our message to everyone at the event because for the most part, we aren’t talking about ourselves. Developing relationships can take a long time before they begin to turn into referrals.
Really, the choice is ours. We can take the approach that might generate some short term benefits at the cost of long term good will. We can choose the path that might spread our message to the far corners of our community, but probably won’t. Or we can go with the long, slow process which may net us the greatest rewards in the long run.
Ask yourself this: If you chose an event where each of the attendees followed the same one of the above approaches, which one would you prefer? I’m guessing everyone else would choose the same.

Image by: Matt McIrvin