I used to absolutely hate going to networking events. Back in college, my professors would always emphasize networking being a key player in creating success. Now, I am the first to admit that there may have been just the slightest chance that I may have not been the model college student. And sure, my nonchalant attitude was probably the number one reason why I flat out didn’t understand the science of networking. But my professors insisted and of course I would give it a shot.
I attended a few while I was still in school, but really those were career fairs and a small slice of my life where I was desperately looking for job. I would hand the recruiter a resume then checked out. Generally, I was just unsatisfied with life in general. Everything I was learning in school did not peak my interest at all. That is when I discovered that entrepreneurship was my destiny.
Welcome To The Big Leagues
Business networking events to me were the big leagues. I am meeting serious professionals and business owners who will help me create my empire. Although, there was one problem. What do you do at networking events? It always felt as if I had a hidden agenda. The idea of selling someone my product always swirled in the back of my mind. Let me remind you I just started a direct sales business at the time which I am now retired from. Nevertheless, my sales training taught me it was just a numbers game where I couldn’t erase the imaginary dollar sign I stamped on their foreheads.
Don’t Vomit On My Shoes
When trying to stay tuned into a conversation, my thoughts were completely absorbed in what I would say next. This kept me from truly understanding the point they were trying to make. If only I can get more words in about my product, I can surely convince them to buy from me. I mean shoot, I can close anyone. I was the one selling ketchup Popsicle’s to the women in the white gloves.
The best thing that we can all understand is that no one cares about your product or service. No matter how great you think it is, no one cares. They care that you care can improve their life or move them closer to where they want to me. This means not vomiting information about your product all over people. Why? Because no one cares!
Networking Events Suck
When all was said and done, I would reflect on the events only to think to myself, “this sucks, I didn’t make any sales. Networking events suck.” At that time, obviously, I didn’t understand to concept of brand equity. So how does this young buck go from a pitiful networker to attending live networking events almost once a week and co-creating a successful local monthly networking event? I think the world may be ready for me to release my super secret ninja networking tactics. Here it is. I care about people. That’s it. Do you care about people? If you don’t you will be a crappy networker. Just saying.
No Hidden Agendas
I truly care about the people I am connecting with. It is not about me and how much business I can bring in. In fact, that is the furthest thing from my mind. The big realization was that when you go into these networking events with a hidden agenda other than building relationships, you lose big time. Really, it’s true. People can sniff the pitchman out in the crowd and you will find yourself standing alone in the corner like the dunce. I recommend not going into a networking event when you are desperately seeking money either. You are most likely setting yourself up for a disappointment.
Who Do You Buy From?
The purpose of networking events is to build relationships to do business with each other. Sounds simple right? You may be shocked know how many people don’t understand this. People buy from people they know, like and trust. The exception is if it is their idea to buy.
Much of what I know I learned from my friend and networking sensei Bob Burg, who authored an outstanding book entitled Endless Referrals. And if you are having trouble finding events to attend in your area, I wrote an article that can help you pinpoint upcoming events in your local area.
One final note for you. The three questions below are not the equivalent of a script. Don’t walk into a event with this printed out in hand and asking these questions from the list. You have to be in the natural flow of conversation before these questions come into play. You may want to find out their name and occupation first and ask something like “what brings you down to the event?”. Here’s the juicy stuff.
1. The Movie Star
“How did you get started in the ‘worm farm’ business?”
By asking someone how they got started in whatever profession can open a huge door to their past. This is the question puts the spotlight directly on them. They get to be the star of the show. They get to talk about how they started their business in their basement while only being able to afford Ramen noodles. Everyone loves to tell his or her story. When you ask this question, it immediately shows you are interested in the other person and they will feel it.
2. The Feel Good
“What do you enjoy most about what you do?”
This question will lead you to the discovery of what get them pumped. This is good for two reasons. For one, you find out what are their motivators. Why they do what they do. If you have some sort of product, service or opportunity down the line that can fit their needs, you already know what will get them to take action. The second reason is that by asking this question you will dial up their energy and by the time they finish with their response, they will start to think “dang this is one interesting dude”. That’s exactly what you want them to think.
3. The Dagger
“How can I know if someone I am talking to would be a good prospect for you?”
I call this one “the dagger” because no one ever ever asks this and when you do, you will win them over. All people want to know is how you can help them, but they are not just going to ask for it. That’s why you will and set yourself apart from the pack. It feels like everyone has a hidden agenda these days and will go above and beyond just trying to sell each other at networking events. Now, this question does not necessarily mean you are going to push business their way, but what’s important is that you will get a great understanding to what they are looking for. When you lead with service instead of “what can I get”, you will soon create raving fans everywhere you go.