Breaking the Hypocrisy of Networking Events


Networking is booming at the moment with more organisations being formed every week and with many more organisations calling an event a “networking opportunity”. Many professionals, entrepreneurs and sales people are looking for ways to grow their businesses and they spend valuable time going to networking events hoping that they establish some new business relationships which will hopefully translate into money. But how many times do people actually close deals and establish business relationships because of a networking event? So many people get caught up in business networking events that they end up losing so much precious time. Which brings me to my big point.

Many networking events are misleading – you can’t go in with the hope that you’re going to create an opportunity out of a “30 Second Pitch” or a 10-minute conversation only. Confusing networking with direct selling is one of the biggest mistakes a networker can make! Concurring with this view, UK Business Networking expert, Andy Lopata says, “Here is a myth in business that if you need to sell you should go to an event where your prospects will be present.

Once you meet them you can give them a carefully crafted elevator pitch and close the sale. It’s led to managers sending their staff to events and judging their performance, and the business case for the event, by the number of cards they’ve collected, which they subsequently add to their sales database. The problem with this approach is that it is ill-conceived and poorly thought through.” That’s nothing more than glorified cold calling.

Networking is not a trading floor. Expecting people to be eager to listen to a “sales job” about your value is decidedly different from developing a relationship based on mutual needs/interests. How many of us are turned off by telemarketers or other individuals that sell without expressing an understanding of or interest in our needs? Most successful sales situations are relationship-based. A relationship requires time to build, and more importantly, it requires integrity, credibility and trust.

Don’t give too much credit to so-called “networking events”, all situations or events that allow interaction with others provide the potential to build a network. Developing relationships (not just contacts) is key to having access to opportunities. A successful network connection requires a mutual understanding from the start that it is about “what I can do for you” as much as it is about “what you can do for me”.

It is what a person does with the contacts they make at these events that will lead to something closer to their desired outcome. Those connections, and the support required to maintain them, are the necessary ingredients to developing a network. An initial meeting or contact with someone does not establish a connection unless there is follow-up of some kind. The follow-up must be a genuine interest in developing a mutually supportive relationship.

People have their own perceptions about the value of networking and when they should network. For some people, networking is only important when a need arises (such as a new job or a product to sell or the need for peer and other support). People with this attitude fail to realize that networking is a process over time. Those who go to networking events and hand out business cards like they’re tossing out ninja stars rarely make any semblance of a dent in the networking world. In fact, they tend to be the ones that are relegated to the same lot as a snake oil salesperson.

Use networking opportunities to meet people and begin the process of developing genuine relationships. Find ways to build your relationships with people such as helping them with their needs, connecting them with people or providing them with resources. Over time, you will have built solid and trusted relationships. With anything in life, you get out what you put in. The same is true for networking. Networking must be a two-way street. Which part of the road are you on?

We understand the value of feedback

“Dear Karl. I hope that this email finds you well. I have spoken to Robin, and he thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. He believes that this session has completely changed his perception of networking, and felt that the strategies were very revolutionary. What also stood out for him was the fact that it was a sustainable approach. Many thanks”. Candida Schörger, HR Manager : Embassy Travel (Pty) Ltd

This article may be copied or republished with the following credit:
“By Karl Smith: speaker, author and founder of Business Networking South Africa” Cape Town, South Africa. +27 (0) 71 444 2210 karl@businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za www.businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za

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