Networking is just making friends
Yesterday my wife comes home from an event that she attended for work. She had a profound expression on her face as she began to tell me about something her coworker said...that networking is just making friends.
It's funny how when you're married, something that you say before doesn't have nearly as much of an impact as when someone outside the marriage says it. Then all of a sudden the lightbulb flickers on and life as we know it appears to alter. Well, the same thing happened here.
When I first entered the industry of financial advice, I was working for a big insurance company. You didn't really have goals, you had a quota. The nuanced difference produces a huge result. If you didn't meet that quota then you "failed out of the business". They didn't really fire you.
They just kind of suggested that you leave.
I'm not really a great salesman. So what am I doing there? No idea, but I went through event after event, beating my head against the wall trying to sign clients. I learned how to seem like an extrovert. I learned how to talk about how to make small talk. I learned all tactics and tricks. This strikes me as ironic because when you learn them, they become inherent to your personality. If you focus on active listening strategies (a method of building trust and persuading others) as a by product...you become a great listener. Communication started to become easier for me than when I first graduated from the University of Tennessee.
You become a just really accustomed to talking to people and figuring out what their pain point or passion point is. Then you can get them to talk for hours. It's partially why I was able to talk for the first time at a conference last year with no training and zero prior experience talking in front of people. All you are trying to do is find a group's pain point or place of passion...and then you're off to the races.
I 100% believe that once you find a cause you believe in, selling becomes more about being able to ask for money at the end. Even then, you aren't really selling at that point. The person you are speaking with will either say "no", or the message that you are communicating will resonate with them.
Your goal is to figure out what makes that person tick and then see if there's a mutual fit for what you're providing. For my wife, it's the nonprofit she works for that helps young refugee women who have had disrupted schooling/education. She's in the development department, which is non-profit speak for the sales team. The main difference is that when you're in development for a non-profit your key selling point is the organization's mission, values, and their "Why".
So, when she said that networking is like making friends. I was like, "YES!! that's what I've been telling you this entire time. Networking is making friends. With selling, you have to follow up and ask for a donation, ask for money, or ask for the sale. In reality, the two are closely linked. You say, "it sounds like I may have a solution that would be a good fit for you. My company provides a service that would completely solve your issue (or save you hours by taking this issue off your plate). Let me know if you would like to take a look."
Networking and selling become more binary the closer you get to someone's pain point. If you've taken the time to get to know them, by the end of your conversation you will intuitively know if your product/service/organization ties into their "why".
Sales people make high incomes because once they've gotten down a great process, have come to terms with being rejected is a way of life, and their income is tied to production...they are free to pound the pavement and find ways to connect their offering to their prospect's pain point.
The next time you think about selling in a negative light, reframe your perspective and look at it through the lens of "I'm just trying to make a friend. Once I make a friend, I'm just going to ask intelligent questions and listen, because eventually, they're going to say something that might tie into my company or what I'm doing."
I'm not in a position where my income is tied to the revenue that I bring in. However, I still take prospective meetings for our organization and I focus on listening to see if I can identify a pain point my team can solve.
As an aside...you may not be able to solve their problem. The best part about networking is that there may be some usefulness later on. A scenario will eventually play out where someone you met three months ago can now solve the pain point of someone you're meeting with now. Your only job is to make the introduction. If all goes well you have invested a little more in your Social Capital. We'll address that in a later article.
You always want to have some form of social capital because that will influence how fast you progress throughout your professional goals. Maybe it's time to discontinue this "selling is bad/wrong" mentality. Yes, some do take advantage of others but that doesn't make YOU that person. Think of it as just getting to know another person and figuring out if what you have access to your resources can in any way help them alleviate pain or make their lives better.