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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Why Networking Events Are Not Sales Opportunities | CONNECTING IS NOT ENOUGH

Andy Lopata
Connecting Is Not Enough with Andy Lopata

In his column this month, UK Business Networking Strategist and co-author of '...and Death Came Third! The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public', Andy Lopata explains why selling at networking events is not only counter-productive, it can lead to you missing a sale.

In this article Andy looks at:
- Why networking events aren't conducive to effective selling
- The networking myth
- One example of someone who got it very, very wrong.

Networking has moved a long way since I went to my first event some thirteen years ago. And that is a good thing. Back then it was hard to go to an event without someone thrusting their business card under your nose as soon as you walked through a door and giving you a contract, and pen with which to sign it, almost before asking your name. There are a few people who still don't get it and network purely to sell, but they are much fewer in number.

But they still exist. One of the main reasons networking has had a bad name in some quarters is because people attending events or joining social networks have been sold to. And that's not why they have participated in the first place.

There is a myth in business that if you need to sell you should go to an event where your prospects will be present. Once you meet them you can give them a carefully crafted elevator pitch and close the sale. It's led to managers sending their staff to events and judging their performance, and the business case for the event, by the number of cards they've collected, which they subsequently add to their sales database.

The problem with this approach is that it is ill-conceived and poorly thought through. Let's try and look at a networking event from a logical perspective. If you go to a networking event predominantly to sell, why do you think other people have gone? Unless it is specifically a 'meet the buyer' event, it would be safe to say "the same thing".

So you have a room full of people looking to sell to each other, and no one interested in buying. Everyone is in broadcast mode, and not trying to engage others in genuine conversation. Can you think of a worse place to find potential customers for your product or service?

Broadcast mode is not a good place to be in when you go to a networking event. If you broadcast and don't receive, you will alienate people rather than attract them. Recently, I witnessed just how painful this can be. And ironically, it cost someone the opportunity to sell to someone they met at a networking event - me!

I went to a full day seminar recently. One of the speakers, let's call him Tim, demonstrated how well his social media strategy was working - and it was very impressive. He mentioned someone in the room who looked after his social media for him, let's call him Michael.

I was very interested in meeting Michael to find out if he did the same for other businesses. In other words, I was genuinely interested in buying from him. I mentioned it to Tim and then was caught in another conversation. Michael heard that I wanted to speak to him and looked for me. Eventually we caught up but didn't have time for an in-depth conversation. I told him that I was interested in what he had to offer in terms of social media and gave him my card, inviting him to get in touch.

I should mention at this stage that, while selling to people you meet at networking events is to be frowned upon, if they show a genuine interest in buying from you, there is no reason at all to discourage them!

Back to Michael. I did receive an LinkedIn connection request from him the next day. This is what he said:

Hi Darryl,


Was great to meet you at yesterday's event.

I will send you an email with some more training videos from Tim

Keep in touch!

- Michael

It was a stunning display of attempting poorly to sell to everyone he met at the event. The greeting tells me immediately that he sent exactly the same email to everyone he met, and forgot to remove the previous recipient's name as he did so. He did not recollect our conversation and what I clearly said I was interested in. He simply sent everyone the same sales message.

A classic example of broadcast rather than receive and engage. And it got better...

A couple of days later I received a call from Michael. After a quick and, to be honest, quite insincere greeting, he launched into a sales pitch. And not even pitching what I had already told him I was interested in. I politely interrupted his presentation, explained that this wasn't a good time to speak but invited him to call me back and discuss the social media services he provides. We agreed a time for him to call.

Michael called me back on the appointed day, but later than the time we agreed. I explained that, once again, he had called at a bad time and suggested an alternative time. Before ending the call he wanted to ask me one simple question, "Exactly what area do you niche in?".

I asked Michael if he'd looked at my website. After all, if you are going to speak to a prospect wouldn't you at least do that? Once there, it doesn't take much to find out what I do for a living. One look at my home page should give you a clue. Without needing to click or scroll it says 'What's Your Networking Strategy?' 'Networking Shop' and 'The Networking Blog'. There's even a video that automatically plays of me talking about networking strategy. Let's just say you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to have an idea about what I do!

Michael clearly hadn't done any research, despite his protestations to the contrary. He had put my card in with all of the others he had collected at the event to pitch afterwards. He ignored our conversation and treated me in the same way as everyone else. How many other conversations did he ignore and just use them to collect a card and pitch?

Michael was only interested in selling and had tunnel vision as a result. The only thing he actually achieved was to lose a sale by chasing the wrong sale. His lazy and discourteous approach meant that he failed to listen to what I was interested in and just treated me as a number.

Networking is not sales. Yes, you can let people buy from you and, if you do the right things and build a strong relationship, you can sell through them, but never try to sell to people in the room. It's the surest way to destroy your reputation.

Networking is about relationship building. It's about listening. It's about engaging.

It's not about broadcasting and it's definitely not about sales.

*The names in this article have been changed to protect the innocent, and to avoid embarrassing the very, very guilty!

The second edition of Andy and Peter Roper's bestselling book '...and Death Came Third! The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public' was published in May 2011 and can be purchased from Amazon. com or

Are you struggling to put an effective networking or referral strategy into place? Do you want to know more about how to ensure you get the maximum possible return from your networking?

Visit Andy's website at for more resources and ideas about how Andy can help you.

Andy's new book, 'Recommended: How To Sell Through Networking and Referrals', will be published later this year.

“In this book Andy Lopata demonstrates how so many businesses ignore potentially their most powerful resource – their networks. Andy’s in-depth, practical advice will show you how to both build and profit from the relationships in your network.”
Ivan Misner, NY Times Bestselling author and Founder of BNI and Referral Institute

Andy Lopata's newsletter archive
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For more information, please visit Andy's TNNWC Bio.

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