Picture this – it’s 7am and you are at a networking event. It’s too early and you just want a coffee and a bacon sandwhich. However between you and your breakfast is someone who starts a sales conversation “So what do you do?” “I’m in marketing and I help companies like yours blah blah blah…….”. Now you really don’t want to engage in this conversation so already before you have even introduced yourself you are plotting your escape! Sound familiar?
The mistake people make in any kind sales/networking situation is that they approach them with tunnel vision of ‘I must sell, I must sell!” Needless to say, there are many things wrong with this approach:
- If you go with a mindset of selling you will miss other opportunities (e.g. to build partnerships, to get referrals, to meet genuinely nice people!)
- You turn people off of you before you have even started and perpetuate the myth of networking not being fun
- You do the opposite of buiding strong relationships!
- You put a lot of pressure on yourself to sell
So I tell my client that the best way to approach a sales meeting or a networking event is to just have a conversation with the other person. Be interested in them, ask them questions about their business, life, challenges etc. and then it will quickly become apparent if there is any synergy to take the conversation further. If you ask them about their business and their challenges first then when you do talk about how you can help them, you can speak specifically to the challenges they told you about rather than generally how wonderful you and your business is!
I take this approach in any kind of sales environment/interaction. Start out in ‘fact find mode’ and ask lots of questions. If there is any mutal connection then tell them about yourself based on the points they made. If that generates further discussions then arrange a 1-2-1 follow up meeting.
If you see selling as just having a conversation then you take the pressure off yourself and who knows, you might even enjoy the next networking event you go to!