Networking: Real Talk
About a month ago to the day, I checked out a local networking event on my side of town. Being on the phone, in the office or just out of sight for the majority of work makes it difficult to get face time in with the community and similar industry folk. I met and connected with about a dozen or so people. The majority of the people there were in real estate and financial services. I made it a point to connect with each person on something that I could bring of interest to the table. My Podcast, My wealth of knowledge and experience. Marketing Services and availability to discuss options with the right interested parties – if it was worthwhile to the conversation, lets talk about it.
One of my contacts there, a young design start up, reached out to me over the weekend. He wasn’t sure if he would have time to meet in the next week or so, but seemed disappointed from the tone of this text and conversation. Speaking further, one of his associates was upset that their “time was wasted and that they didn’t make any sales there at all and everybody there was a realtor.” The tone, was that this free, people mixer, had in some way, let his associate down.
Lets break this down step by step.
1 – If you are here to make sales, chances are you are going to be disappointed.
Its a social mixer. If you have the ability to ask questions ahead of time with the event organizer, do so. If sales is your priority, you had better researched the demo that rsvp’d, what type of work they do, what type of work they need, and be ready to talk collaborations to them discreetly in the conversation within 5 mins should they be interested. Keep in mind, they may be trying to do the same thing.
2 – People don’t know you, and they dislike or even despise people pushing sales onto them that they don’t know even worse.
Lighten up. Talk about yourself, work, food, places you visit. Don’t be a robot. Don’t be all business – many people are just getting out of work and are enjoying talking to new people and not directly work related conversation, at least right away. Build the relationship. Don’t just ask for their hand in business marriage.
3 – If people don’t know you, they don’t want to talk with you let alone do business with you. Change that.
Again, talk to people like a person or people, not a number. Hello, my business is up here.
4 – It should be clear of your intent within 1 min of talking to someone.
This can flex depending on circumstance and a one on one vs a group conversation. Keep in mind though they did not come to just talk with you. If there is something of interest, by all means, discuss! Unless there is genuine interest in the discussion, keep conversation to 5-8 mins tops. A glance away while you are talking, or a check of the phone or watch in the middle of what you believe to be some great speech, means they are polite but not engaged. You have 15 seconds to re-engage, or less than 2 minutes to wrap things up.
5- Oh I don’t have any business cards on me / I don’t do any work that needs one / I’m a student and don’t have one / My girlfriend didn’t tell me I needed to bring them with me.
This seems to happen more often than not, for whatever reason, assumed, honest mistake or otherwise, people are not prepared. If you are going to a business networking event and you do not have materials, pen and paper or even pricing for your product or service ready, make it clear that you are just there for the free bread instead. Or, write your contact info on the bread, that works too. Except for that one time that horse rancher had too much to drink and was holding herself upright for dear life with my bicep – Literally have no idea what she sold, and I am ok with that, some contacts are just going to be.. alohas.
Look, what you get out of a networking event is up to you. If its just an outing and you aren’t expecting much, that’s fine. Just understand that there are 100 people that do what you do, usually available right around the corner, community or vicinity, ready to do business. If Realtors are there, they need marketing materials, photography for property, website management and upkeep, ad designs and video editing for property walkthrus. These are all, design worthy inquiries to talk to them about.
In short, the networking events are there to gather people, and what you do with those people and contacts and connections once you speak with them is entirely up to you. What I will say is if you’re going there predominantly to try to sell people on your work, that’s not going to happen. You want to show that you are a person in a valuable asset and trustworthy resource first above anything. You want to show that you are a person in a valuable asset and trustworthy resource first above anything.
If Design or Marketing work is your focus, keep in mind that every single person there has a design need. You just have to be able to adapt to their situation and be at the right place at the right time.
Follow Michael on