I might be an anomaly.
I love networking events. I love the opportunity to meet new people, connect with prospects and close deals.
But I’ve found that many people absolutely dread networking and networking events.
This drastic difference in how I felt about networking and how others did peaked my curiosity and drove me to do a little research.
When I began asking people why they don’t enjoy networking events I started to uncover some very similar responses – they’re awkward, feel forced and inauthentic – and one underlying theme.
People don’t like networking because they aren’t good at it, and they don’t know how to sell.
There is so little available to us to teach us how to effectively network. How to be comfortable, authentic and effective in our networking.
Well, I’m here to change that. I’m going to reveal the 3 keys for how to learn how to love networking events, and even better, how to sell at networking events. I employ each of these at every networking event I go to, and they’re always a success. I’ve consistently closed thousands of dollars in sales at networking events I’m a part of, whether I’m presenting or attending.
- Be Different
You have to be different than everyone else that’s there and the best way to do that is by asking the right questions.
How many times have you gone to a networking event and been asked the dreaded question “What do you do?” I’m sure the number is pretty high. That’s because 99% of people at networking events are walking around and opening conversations with that cliché question.
Now, let me ask you. How many times have you gone to a networking event and asked that very same question? That number is probably pretty high too.
A lot of people don’t like being asked this question because they typically don’t know how to answer it. Or if they do like it, there’s a good chance they still aren’t answering it in an effective way. So essentially, what the vast majority of people at networking events are doing, is leading with a question for which many people in the room are going to have a terrible response.
It really limits human connection.
Not to mention, most people at networking events are asking “What do you do?” to learn just enough about you so that they can figure out how to sell something to you.
The real key to selling something at networking events is actually to not try to sell anything at all, but rather, to connect with people.
What you’ll find when your goal is to connect with people, is that you actually end up selling way more.
So be different. Don’t walk around asking people “What do you do?” Start conversations in a different, more creative way. Approach people instead with “what brings you here today”, “hey, what’s your story?”, “tell me a little about yourself”. It may throw them off at first, but an interesting, and more importantly, genuine conversation will develop.
Be a ‘pattern interrupt’ to what could otherwise be a mundane, useless networking event. And don’t let people off the hook! If you start with something like “tell me a little about yourself”, most people are going to default to what they do for a response. If they do, then you ask, “So what do you do for fun when you’re not working?” Get them to tell you something about WHO they are and you’ll be surprised at the power of the connection that can take place.
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- Be Prepared
The second key for how to sell at networking events is to be prepared. We just discussed that 99% of people at networking events are asking the question “What do you do?” It’s in your best interest to have an answer ready for this question, because you’ll hear it a lot.
The number one tip I can give anyone about networking is don’t start by telling people what you do, start by telling them about the pain you solve.
If I’m answering their question of “what do you do” and I say “I often hear from entrepreneurs who are frustrated because they are having a really hard time telling people their story and what they do,” and that’s a pain that the person is currently experiencing, I’m immediately relatable to them, and more importantly, I’ve proved that I’m of value to them.
So, think about the biggest pain point or challenge that the majority of your clients and customers experience, and lead with that to help you better connect with others at networking events.
I lead with the pain first and then say, “so I teach entrepreneurs how to talk about what they do in a powerful, concise way to help them get more clients.”
In this case, I have let them know that I am aware of their pain and then I tell them what they benefit would be of working with me as I solve their pain.
- Take Action
If you’ve had a great interaction with someone, and you’re both interested in connecting further, set a time and a date on both of your calendars while you’re there for when you’ll have a follow-up, whether it be in person, on the phone, or over email.
Take action right then and be specific on follow up!
I’ve seen so many people at networking events have a great conversation, and then they say “we should really connect after this event.” But they decide they’ll email about it later, and then it never happens. So plan it then and there.
If for whatever reason you or that person can’t commit to a date right then and there, then within 24 hours of the networking event, connect with them on LinkedIn. If it’s appropriate friend request them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or Instagram. And send them a very specific email that says, “It was such a pleasure meeting you at X event last night, I wanted to see if we could connect…”
Make sure your email is specific. If you want to have lunch with them, or if you just want to chat on the phone, say that. But most importantly, create a timeline. Somewhere in your email say, “in the next week.” Put a deadline on it. And make sure they know the reason you want to have lunch or meet is so that you can get to know a little bit more about them and their business, and if there’s anything you can do to help them.
In that follow up email don’t say “Hey, I’d love to get together and see if we can refer each other business.” Make it about them. Ask if you can get together in the next 7 days, and make sure that when you show up to that phone call or meeting, that you really are sincerely interested in helping them.
Networking doesn’t have to be a miserable part of your week. Don’t go into the event thinking that you’re there only for your benefit so you can sell to others, instead go into the networking event seeking out how you can help others, and develop meaningful relationships.
Never go into a networking even with the mindset “I hope I get something out of this.” Go into the networking event with the mindset of “what do I want to create out of this by connecting with people.” Those real connections could turn into business later.