When I was in the corporate world, I attended networking events at least monthly. And I tolerated them. I would usually find one or two people that I knew and just hang out, generally poking fun at the whole idea of networking events. Then I became a business owner and quickly realized I did not want to go to these events. At all. Period. I disliked the whole sales vibe and cliquish nature. So I spent a couple of years working to meet and connect with people online, with Facebook mostly, and….crickets.
I knew if I wanted to help change lives and create connections, I would have to put myself out there and not just rely on social media or online groups. But, to say I dreaded networking would be an understatement. Then I hired a coach who forever changed how I look at networking and sales.
You have choices. The first is simply: Don’t Go. Find other ways of connecting with your people. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, whatever. Just decide that in-person events are not your jam. Because if you go under duress, even when self-created, the energy follows. Awkward, forced, fake pleasant, the list goes on.
But….if leveling up your business or career requires the face to face connection, here are some tips to actually enjoy networking:
1. Go with the sole intention of meeting as many people as you can. That’s it. No agenda. No trying to sell anyone. Just meet people. How do you do this?
- Forget about “networking,” and decide that you’re only purpose is to have fun, even if it seems like it will be dry or boring. What? Not network? Then why go? Because you can treat it like a break from work, a party, a gathering of like minds or friends, whatever sounds good to you, and take the charge out of “having” to network. No one needs that energy anyway.
- While you’re there, for extra fun you can watch all of the other people who are chomping at the bit to give their 30 second elevator pitch and who are trying to make a sale then and there. Notice how their energy is compared to yours when you’re having fun and they’re working to make a sale.
2. When you meet people, don’t say anything about yourself. Ask about them. Find out not just what they do, but what they love about it, or what they wished they’d known when they started. Questions which aren’t the standard, “What do you do?” or “How long have you been doing this?” Blah, blah, boring!
3. If they ask, and ONLY IF THEY ASK, tell them what you do. In 10 words or less. If they’re interested and ask more questions, enjoy the great conversation that flows. Without trying to make a sale!
4. If it’s appropriate, and you’ll know because it will feel natural and not graspy, offer to hop on the phone for a consult (free) to see if there is any way you can serve them. If it feels salesy, then it probably is. So don’t do that!
5. My favorite tip of all: Referral business
If your business isn’t really a fit, don’t force it, even if you know you could probably get a sale. It won’t be a good experience for either of you. Offer to connect them with that person or business that you know is actually a great fit. At least 2 things will happen: They will be impressed that you care enough to help them even if it means it’s not your help. And, second, you will create goodwill that lasts long after the interaction. This is something people will remember, and that’s how you make an impression. Side note: Make sure you follow through with the offer to connect. Send that email or message and let both parties know that you did so. The rest is up to them.
I go to 2-3 events each week, and, by the way, networking is where 2 or more people are gathered. It doesn’t have to be 20 or 200! I’ve met so many amazing women who are making a difference in the world. I refer business to them, not because it’s part of a referral agreement, but because I know, like and trust them and they do the same. The key is creating relationships, which is so much more freeing than thinking about how I can get a client. The best part is I look forward to each event because fun is the intention and the rest naturally grows from that.
Content courtesy of Sheryl Turner.
Contributing Author, Sheryl Turner
Sheryl is a Certified Life & Weight Coach and Certified Body Language Trainer. She loves helping clients discover what the heck they want to do with their lives, guiding them from stuck where they are to where they want to be. Sheryl is married to an amazing guy who will do dishes and laundry (sorry ladies, he’s taken!). Together they have 2 incredible sons, 25 and 20. Sheryl has been horse crazy since the age of 4 and enjoys riding trails with her quarter horse Sienna, the true love of her life (but don’t tell the amazing husband).