Networking events are a great way to meet other professionals and potentially get some business. They are great because everyone is there to network, mingle, and meet other professionals. You skip the “no soliciting” signs, middle men and gate keepers of a business and get to talk to and meet professionals directly. Networking events are also a great time to get out of the office and build relationships with fellow professionals. I like attending different networking events but one thing I don’t care for is the ever vigilant pitcher.
There I was, having a great conversation with an associate I have known for a few years, an associate of theirs and a young new entrepreneur with dreams, motivation and a good attitude; we were listening to the adventures he had experienced in recent months while turning his idea into a new business when A mature woman came up to me, very bluntly but politely, and interrupted the conversation introducing herself. I politely introduce myself and shook her hand. As I did she handed me her card and began to tell me that she works for an insurance company. I politely acknowledged her while I looked at her card trying to look semi-interested and she asked what I do. I explain the bullet points of my business and I waited for what I knew was coming. She began asking if I have insurance, saying that she can provide a better deal on my policies and that I should consider specific policies for my business. I listened to her knowing that I would not be able to get a word in during her pitch and waited for the pitch to be over. I kindly thanked her and she asked that I call her and said that she would be emailing me. I returned to my previous conversation.
This is just one of many such accounts. The industries change from insurance, to money management, to multi-level-marketing and others. We have all experienced such meetings at networking events and we all, after the first few, react the same way. We are either polite and simply carry on, we stop them in their pitch, thank them and move on or we listen, critique, advise and then move on. We typically throw those cards away that evening or the next morning. The people are different and so are the companies they represent but the story is usually very similar. In truth we all get annoyed and sometimes aggravated with these “pitchers”.
Networking events are not meant to be pitch fests. Yes, most of us at one point or another get to rehearse our elevator pitch at least once during the networking event but we don’t start with it unless we are asked for it, which we usually are. Networking events are supposed to be a time where we get to – wait for it – network. Businessdictionary.com defines business networking this way:
Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?”
A Note: When you say that you can provide me with “blank” could be insurance or a supplement or financial advice, that is a “What can I get or sell” not a “How can I help.
We build relationships. The definition refers to acquaintances but I have formed some good relationships through networking. The purpose is not to just throw your pitch out there and hope you hit something. It is to develop something more than just a client; someone you can do business with. Mutual benefit is the key phrase there.
I know some people will say “my product [or service] will benefit the people I sell to,” and while that may be true on some levels, it is not a true give and take relationship. A real networking relationship doesn’t even necessarily involve either party using the products or services either person offers. It is getting to know the people and through them the company. It is in introducing associates to other associates, giving and receiving leads and building business networks on top of each other. Shoving an elevator speech down the throats of as many people as possible is not the way to do that.
In many cases these “pitchers” have given networking a bad name and actually makes many of us not want to attend them. I am not saying that you are not welcome at these events if you are a pitcher. I am saying that you need to adjust your strategy and your focus. Spend time getting to know people. Don’t be so brazen in your attempts to sell your products. Develop relationships. Give leads. As you do you will find more opportunities to give and get more business.
Stop being that guy.