Ever go to a business networking event and meet someone, but have an uneasy feeling about promoting yourself to the people you meet there? This is a great instinct to have, since doing that would be the wrong approach and would likely turn them off. So let’s talk a bit about what you do when you meet someone like that, and how you build the network to take advantage of the opportunity to help both them and another networking partner of yours. You’ve probably heard you’re supposed to have a 30 second elevator speech that lets people know who you are & what you do, but how/when do you use it? Here are some ways to think about these situations that should help you be both more comfortable and more effective.
Many people have a negative feeling about selling or being sold to, so the first thing to realize is that you’re not selling, you’re serving. As soon as you adopt that mind set, networking will become much easier for you and more appreciated by the people you meet.
So what is your goal when you meet someone for the first time? It is to LEARN about them! Here’s a game for you to play. If they ask about you, see how fast you can turn the conversation back to them. Focus on who they are, what they do, and then try to find out what problems they have. Don’t worry at all about whether their problems relate to what you do. Chances are they won’t. That’s good. What you want to do is think about whom else in your business or personal network can help them with whatever their top of mind problem is at that moment. They will appreciate this far more than “I’m a great photographer. What do you need photographed?” Your goal is to be a resource for them by connecting them to people whom you know who can help them. If when you’re done doing that, they don’t get a bit curious about who you are & what you do, then so be it. They may not become a great networking partner for you, but you’ll have done yourself no harm & them some good & you won’t feel like a salesman. By the way, if the person you connect them with happens to mention how great you are at what you do (because it’s someone with whom you already have a trusting relationship) this will not set off the “sales pitch” alarm bells that it would if you were doing that yourself. Since you connected them to this person who they can help, they just might appreciate that & want to help you out as well.
You’re not selling yourself, since when you’re networking properly, you’re selling your networking partners rather than yourself, but also vice versa. This is much easier & more believable. Next month we’ll talk about what this ideal networking partner relationship looks like in more detail. Happy networking!
David Coblitz – www.CoblitzPhotographicArts.com