I’m going to be honest here. THIS is one of the biggest mistakes that I see women make when networking. The need to generate sales leads at networking events. It’s understandable. We are often giving up family time to attend events so we feel we have to maximize every networking opportunity. And, in our minds that typically equates to getting new sales leads.
What’s wrong with that, you may ask? While generating sales leads is a possible outcome of networking, it should not be your sole reason for networking. The real purpose of networking is to build mutually beneficial relationships. It’s not about coming home with a new list of prospective clients.
Another driver for this mistake is the incredible number of women who are now working in direct marketing businesses. Please don’t see this as me taking an opportunity to discredit network marketing. This is not what I’m trying to communicate. I am a big fan of direct marketing companies. I think the business model is genius and I love seeing women growing and thriving within them. But, I’m hearing more and more complaints that networking events are no longer enjoyable because attendees feel they are being attacked by network marketers. I’ve seen it time and time again. Because network marketers are rewarded for adding new people to their business, I see them run through networking events like a buzz saw. No on in attendance is safe from being asked if they are interested in joining their team. Most of the time its without knowing anything about the person they are inviting. They vomit their sales pitch over anyone who will listen because they have to sign up two new people before midnight. And if they don’t feel they will be able to close someone on the spot, they immediately move on to the next person. I’ll give you an example.
I recently attended an intimate cocktail hour hosted by one of my friends. There were only 5 of us so we should have had a pretty good opportunity to get to know each other. Instead, a woman that has her own network marketing business dominated the entire conversation. She shared how wonderful her products are, how awesome her business is, and how great her team is. That’s fine. She’s proud of the work she is doing and proud of the work her team is doing. But she never let the rest of us talk. Nor did she get to know anything about us as individuals. The next day, I received an email from her asking for 30 minutes on the phone so that she could get to know more about me and my business. I thought sure. That would be great. I already knew all the ways that I could be helpful to her, but this would be a great way for me to find out if there was opportunity for her to be helpful to me. So, I agreed. We had our call and I don’t think she even took a breath during the entire 30 minutes. The only time we talked about my business is when she said, “so you are a business and life coach. That’s cool.” Then she immediately asked me if I was interested in joining her team. When I said “no” she said “my philosophy is to not beat around the bush and to just throw the invitation out there to everyone I meet. The worse they can say is no, right?”
I get that and I’m a firm believer that you will never get what you want if you aren’t willing to ask for it. But using this as the excuse for accosting every new person you meet will tarnish your reputation and cause people to avoid you. I already know professionals who have stopped attending networking events because they end up dodging direct marketing people all night. Those who don’t understand the value of building genuine relationships are giving the good ones a bad name.
If you own your own network marketing company, I applaud you. But I will also encourage you to set yourself apart from the masses and not use networking events to meet, pitch, and close new team members on the spot.
As a reminder to all, use networking to meet new people and begin developing relationships. It is fine to tell people what you do and who you help. That is, after they have asked you of course. But, resist the urge to go into a sales or recruiting pitch at this point. Swing the conversation back by asking questions so that you get to know others better and start building rapport. This will be the foundation that will help you discover whether your business is a right fit for them and if they are a right fit for your business. You team won’t explode in size overnight but it will grow the right way. And people will stop trying to avoid you at events. They will instead start trying to identify people who would be good team members for you and will be excited about helping you make it grow.