How much do you give when you attend a networking event? When I met Mark E. Sackett at a networking event earlier this year, he told me that he found networking events to be empty and didn't believe they actually work. I slowly looked around the room of hundreds of people ready to meet and greet and then asked him why not.
Sackett explained that people are too preoccupied with the sell.
"The reason for showing up at a networking event is to build your business, and once you have determined that you cannot do business with this person, the sorting process begins," he says. "Asking 'what do you do for a living?' is a sorting methodology, a method of selling. Depending on the answer, people begin to shut down, they don't engage, their body language changes, they start glancing around the room and they try to figure out how to extract themselves from the conversation so they can move on to the next more productive person in the room."
Sackett says that people need to understand that it is not always about the sell.
"Don't always make it about the sell," he says. "We are well trained in the sell but not in the listening and giving."
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An entrepreneur, Sackett is also a speaker and founder of the networking organization The Art of Active Networking, where he encourages people to shift how they do business with the giving of themselves with the simple question, "How can I help you do better right now?" Sackett's mission in business and life is to shift the conversation from "the get to the give."
In a later phone conversation, Sackett reminded me that in the end, people choose to do business with people they know, like and trust. So whether it's meeting at a networking event or somewhere else, here are a few ways to build a more giving relationship and be a better networker.
1. Make it a give and not a get.
Instead of trying to sell yourself or your business, work on building relationships. Listen carefully and engage with the person you are interacting with at the event. Practice asking these four questions:
- What is your name?
- What do you do for a living or what do you want to be doing?
- Why are you here tonight?
- What is it in life that you are most passionate about?
If someone states something that they need, figure out how you can help them by thinking, "What can I do to help that person do better?" If you offer to help someone do better right now, you are more likely to build that know, like and trust needed in a business relationship.
Once you figure it out, offer to help by giving them a business card and say, "I know a number of people who might be able to help you. Call me to get their information and I will make the introduction." There is a good chance this person will call you and that is the beginning of a business relationship.
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2. Follow up after your meeting.
Seventy-five to 80 percent of people who receive a business card at an event do not follow up. Sackett and I found common ground immediately by talking about something other than work. When you hand someone a business card, it is a form of respect and there is an obligation to follow up. It may take time, but you should always follow up. It is never too late.
It's also important to know what you want and what you're going to say when you follow up. If someone follows up with you, have integrity and follow back. Respond and say something: either advance the conversation or end it. If you follow up with someone, do not start with the hard sell, just say, "Hi, it was a pleasure to meet you. If there is any way I can help you, please let me know." Offering up your network to strangers is a great way to break the ice.
3. Continue to show up for people.
It is easy to reply to an email and say "stay in touch." Say it and mean it. Decide what you want and what you can give. Do your best to build relationships. I know I personally cannot send out emails each week. So when I meet people, I make notes about them: how and where we met, if we know anyone in common, their birthdays, etc.
Also, don't immediately ask for a favor when you connect with someone. I will help you, but you also need to help yourself. Be clear about your ask, know what you want and be specific so someone can tap into their networks to possibly help you.
With about 135,000 to 150,000 people in his network worldwide, Sackett says there is an art to having conversations and building relationships. When it comes to networking, Sackett encourages people to "give their network referrals. Think of the people in your network, who can help the people you know or are having new conversations with and make an active, energetic referral for that person. Pay it forward and shout them out."
Today, with social media, this is as easy as pushing a button.