It always surprises me how many people ignore the most important rule of networking. They either don’t want to know or are too blind to see that selling to others right when we meet them simply doesn’t work. People know when we're just trying to use them and don’t like it. Instead we need to give before we take. That is how we humans are hard-wired and how it should be.
In this article we explain the psychology behind giving first, why it works, and how to best use it in the business networking context.
Pitching to others is expected, but does it work?
We all attend networking events in order to meet interesting people, potential clients, suppliers or new hires. It is expected from us to pitch to others. They want to know who we are, what we do and how relevant are we to what their business does. So far so good.
The problem is that many attendees of business networking events pitch too quickly and too much. The other day I was at a big digital conference and this lady came and handed me her business card and left. She did not even look at me. What is the chance that I will care about contacting her? Zero. She just wasted her card. If instead she would say ‘hi’, asked about me and see if I am relevant, she can decide if staying in touch makes sense. If yes, she can spend a few minutes to explain what she does and how helpful it could be to me.
What you have to learn is how to filter out people who would reduce your success rates and who would be terrible partners.
Connect on a human level
Taking your time and getting to know the person who just met is well worth it. You don’t have to spend hours in a conversation though. Do the fast version. Before you jump in right to business talk, try to understand what kind of person you are talking to. Find one or two commonalities. If you both are fans of adventure travelling, it will be much easier to do business together. And as people, you will also trust each other more.
Show interest in who you are meeting. People like talking about themselves and when they see someone showing real interest in them, they appreciate it. Having common hobbies, having kids of similar age or having common friends are short-cuts to trust building. Show interest, build trust.
You gotta give to get
This is truly the golden rule of networking. Yet it is the most neglected one. How many times have you met someone and the first thing they did was to selfishly start selling to you? This almost never works. Instead do the unexpected. Thing of how can you help. But there is a catch... you need to mean it. There are people who ask “how can I help?”, when meeting a new person. Yet, it doesn’t sound genuine and since they ask too early, the answer is usually “not sure, to be honest“.
The more effective way of giving is to be train your brain to be proactive. As soon as you meet someone, thing of how you can be helpful to this person. The beauty of this approach is that you can look for ways that don’t take too much time and don’t cost you anything. An example of being helpful is a simple introduction to someone, whom you have met earlier on the same event.
“Oh, you are looking for an investor? I have to say I like your vision. As a matter of fact, there is an angel investor here. His name is John. You should meet him. Let me introduce you in a minute.”
By learning how to make a win-win situation for all involved, you will naturally attract more business.
How to pitch yourself
Once you offer help pro-actively, people’s perception of you will change. They will respect you more and will want to help you in return. Sometimes their help won’t be apparent immediately, but sooner or later it will come. If not as a returned favour, definitely as good karma.
Now that you offered help or tried to help, the other person will want to help you too. They might ask how they can be helpful. Be honest.
Always deliver what you promise
This is another common sin people commit when networking. They over-promise. Think carefully what you promise before you say it out loud. Keep in mind the person you just meet might not be your biggest future client, but he or she still might know one. Therefore only commit to what you can deliver.
When you finish a conversation with a new person, wrap it up and summarise how you will help and if the other person offered to help too, remind them of that. That will increase the chances that those things actually happening.
When you meet someone at a business networking event, don’t fall into the same trap as so many others do. Don’t start to sell yourself or your company right off the bat. Instead get to know that person a little, look for commonalities and connect on a human level first.
When you have connected, think pro-actively how you can be helpful or add value to that person. If you think you know a safe way to help, suggest it. If not, ask them and be genuine and specific.
Once you have connected, offered help and gained trust, it is time for you to introduce what you do. When doing that, look at yourself from their perspective. Then you will be able to deliver a very strong pitch and they will relate to you. If they don’t need your services, odds are they will mention you to someone in their social circle who does.
How do you sell yourself? Want us to look at any other areas of networking? Or have any tips of your own to share? Leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter.
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