I am not a “sales guy”. I probably look at business development, marketing, or networking differently than experienced sales professionals. However, I’m probably sure that no one likes to attend a conference, and get hunted down in a corner, and force-fed a business card and elevator pitch. It boggles my brain that anyone would think this is a winning business strategy, let alone good manners.
In the credit and collections industry, competition is fierce, with prospective clientele being local businesses all the way to national banks. It strikes me that in our industry (and probably many others), everyone is still working on a “Mad Men” mentality, using cold calling, and hardline sales approaches to carve a niche out for their company. I think it’s outdated, and unnecessary.
Cornering people at a networking event is not cool. Everyone deserves their personal space, and their dignity. I can’t think in all my years of anyone closing a deal on first meeting at a public event – so why do people try? The whole point of a business network meeting is to network, not sell. Say hello, ask questions, and get to know what the other person does. Honestly, if they ask what you do, and want to know about your company, they’ll ask.
If you listen rather than talk, you’ll find out what other people do, and you may be in a position to help them – networking them to potential customers, offering advice or insight to them, which may not add to your bottom line, but it does add credibility and build rapport – which is why you are at the networking event, to begin with.
Also, business cards aren’t trading cards. You don’t win something if you collect them all, and if you don’t have a reason to follow up and talk with the person afterwards, did you really network with them?
Virtual or Social Networking
Just like standing in a conference and chatting with other professionals, you can reach out and engage people with social media and email. I think it’s the same thing. Why blast out 10,000 emails to a purchased list? Wouldn’t it be more effective to craft an individual email to a business contact, and talk about something specific with that person? No one likes getting spammed.
Just like collecting business cards, collecting Linkedin connections or Twitter followers is useless without conversation. There’s no point in connecting with people if you can’t have a conversation with them, or a common interest. Out of all of your Linkedin connections, how many have you had a private conversation with?
What's Worked For Me
While I’m not the creator of a viral youtube video, I don’t have thousands of followers on Twitter or my company Facebook page, I can tell you that I get recognized at conferences by people I don’t know, and clients call me inquiring about our company’s services. This didn’t happen overnight, but because I try to offer valuable content and information without assuming everyone is a "client waiting to happen", I've managed (for the most part) to gain attention and credibility. And people don't run screaming from me when I attend a networking event.
Jesse Hirsch of CBC Radio has said the internet is forming into a form of neo-feudalism, and the aristocracy are the people and companies who can command attention. Whether they are celebrities, politicians or business professionals, the only way someone can command attention is to have something valuable, and unique to say. We are bombarded every day with information, and we filter out the spam, the junk, and the canned sales pitches. That makes having a conversation with a potential business partner challenging, but not impossible.
If you build a real network of people you know and can talk to, the results will come – down the road, sometimes years later, but these people will remember you helped them, you listened to them, and you offered your expertise. That’s how I find networking should work.
If you want to read an excellent book, find Scott Stratten’s book “Unmarketing”. You can also visit his website at www.unmarketing.com. Another good book is Daniel Pink’s “To Sell Is Human” – his website is www.danpink.com. Lastly, one of the most personable networking professionals I’ve met is Paul Nazareth, and I follow his blog “Adventures in Networking” at http://paulnazareth.blogspot.ca/.
As always, I am interested to hear what success or horror stories other folks have had. Feel free to reach out to me at my office in Cambridge at 226-946-1730.
Kingston Data and Credit