There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything.
Networking seems to be one of those areas that most people get wrong.
When you think of networking, what comes to mind? Building meaningful relationships with your peers? Or, finding someone to sell your products to? If you chose the latter, I hate to say it, but you’re networking all wrong.
Don’t be one of those people. If you’re guilty of committing these networking blunders, now’s the time to change.
What is Networking?
The definition of networking is: "interacting with others to share information and grow professional contacts."
Nowhere in that definition does it say: “to sell your products.” Networking isn’t about what you’ll get from the relationship, it’s about meeting new people and exchanging new ideas.
Only thinking of yourself.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that only wanted to talk about themselves? Anytime you try to bring up something about your life, they make it about theirs. Not only is it rude, but it also makes the conversation seem pointless. If you do this, I’m begging you to stop…NOW!
To really connect with another person, you need to learn how to “zip your lips” and listen. Engage in conversations about that other person. Ask them questions. We all love to talk about ourselves, so allow them time to talk.
When you stop to listen, you’ll learn quite a bit about the other person. The next time you see them or talk to them, bring up something they told you in the last conversation. “How is your new project on xyz going?” Not only will they feel as though you really listened, but they’ll also feel more connected to you. You'll seem more genuine and not so pushy.
My Ophthalmologist, (Eye Doctor), is an excellent example of this.
A few months ago, I went to see him for my yearly eye exam.
As he enters the room, he greets me with his usual, “hey, how are you today?” Then, he brings up something I had mentioned to him at my last visit…exactly one year ago! What?!
I have trouble remembering what I ate for dinner the night before, let alone a conversation from the previous year.
I have no idea how he remembers the things he does. He may have a notebook beside him with all our previous conversations. My eyesight is terrible so, I wouldn’t see it if he did.
It’s this type of interaction that leaves me feeling less like a patient, and more like a friend. It’s because of this feeling that I will stay a loyal patient.
Pitching a product before a relationship has formed.
You’ve seen those emails…maybe you’ve even sent a few yourself. The one that starts “Hey you! I saw your interest in blah, blah, blah and wanted to send a link to my new product. It’s only $5.99 today, so you better act fast!”
*Insert huge eye roll here*
I can’t express enough how annoying these types of messages are. There is no personal touch, no explanation of how this product will help me, and I have no idea who the sender is. This message gets an automatic delete, and that person is out of a potential sell.
There is nothing wrong with sending messages to people you’ve never met. Conversations need to be started by someone, and who better than you. But, if you don't know their problem, how do you know your product is the answer?
Take time to learn about the person, then give your product a pitch when it feels right.
Only pitch products you really think your customer/client would need. Honestly, everyone in this world isn’t a fit for every business. Networking should never be ONLY about making a sale. It’s to meet people who can point you in the direction of someone that needs your help. That might be them, or it might be someone else.
Spamming social media groups and promoting your product on every post.
I get it…you want the whole world to know about your business. And, you should. But, spamming every post in social media groups isn’t the way to do it.
If someone asks a question in the group, give them an answer (not a product). The “spam” is real, and people can smell it from a mile away. Pushing products to everyone is what gives certain businesses a bad name.
If you want to stand out and make meaningful relationships, be the person that gives advice. That may mean you miss out on a sell, but that’s ok! What you’ve done here is set yourself up as someone that can be trusted. Someone that really cares about others and wants to help them.
The more people can see you as someone they can trust, the more they will listen. Then, when you decide it’s the right time to talk about your products, you’ll have an audience that’s ready (and willing) to hear it.
Thinking messages and emails are the only way to network online.
You could actually be networking with people right now and not even realize it. All those comments you make on social media posts…networking. And, it’s not considered creepy.
People can be very protective of their emails. They don’t want to see messages they didn’t ask for, or from people they don’t know. When someone posts something publicly on social media, they're giving you permission to respond. This is where some of the best networking happens for me.
When I make connections on LinkedIn, I take the time to leave comments on as many posts as I can. I leave comments that are well thought out and allow the other person to comment back. In return, they comment on the posts that I create. Now, we’ve both learned a little more about each other, and our social media presence is getting stronger.
These interactions have led potential clients to reach out and ask about my services. I may not always be a fit for these people, but it shows that the power of networking (done right) works!
Ignoring the power of face-to-face interactions.
It can be hard to get a sense of who someone is from a few typed sentences in an email. Your jokes probably aren’t as funny, your personality may come off a bit weird, and your message could get mixed up. That’s because the person reading it creates a version of you in their head.
It’s the same as when someone makes a movie about a book. If you read the book first, you created this image in your mind of who the characters are. Then, when you watch the movie, you’re completely taken aback. The characters are nothing like you imagined.
That’s why face-to-face networking is so important. It’s your chance to release the movie version of yourself before someone reads your book. You want to show them who you are…show them your personality.
Are you an introvert? So am I, and I know how intimidating networking in real life can be. But, the more you do it, the easier it will be. If you’re like me, start small. You can set up a Skype or Zoom chat with a potential client. Try jumping on a live video for your social media followers.
You can attend a small networking event in your community. Once you feel more comfortable getting out there, attend a larger event for more exposure.
Rome wasn’t built in a day…and neither is a lasting relationship. You can’t expect to make a connection with someone, and a week later they will be your most loyal customer. It takes time.
Now, there are circumstances when this may not be the case. If someone is aware of your product before meeting you, they may be more willing to buy right away. If someone has never heard of you or your product, things will take longer. You’ll figure out where they are as you continue to have conversations with them.
If you try to push whatever you’re selling on someone too soon, you’ll scare them off. They might come back, but chances are they are long gone. It can take someone a full year before they decide to give you a chance. Stick with it, and one day they will come around.
Being a copywriter means I spend entirely too much time in front of my computer. I have projects to start, deadlines to meet, and a bunch of other tasks to do in-between. If I were never to reach out to others, I’d always be stuck in my own frame of mind.
I wouldn’t experience new ideas. I wouldn’t learn new things. My business would most likely be stagnant, and I would be bored.
Networking has allowed me to experience new ideas, cultures, and people. It’s worked wonders in my business, and I’m sure, if you do it right, it will work wonders in yours.