When people hear the word “networking” they automatically think of a registered event with people walking around wearing name tags trying to make a sales pitch. In all actuality, networking is about making meaningful connections. And, while the days of meeting in person and shaking hands may be put on hold for now, thanks to a worldwide pandemic, it doesn’t mean that connecting with people can’t happen.
Even before the pandemic hit, business networking had already seen a major shift to online and through social media. Today, a greater amount of people see connecting this way, even more convenient and helpful. These avenues of networking are better for those who may have had fears of meeting people face to face and have given them the freedom to connect right from their own home offices.
People used to be surprised when they made a business connection on sites like Facebook, Instagram or even Twitter but it’s much more common than you would think. Since networking is something that is best done casually, it makes sense to expand social media networking from a site like LinkedIn, where the sole purpose was to make business connections to more personal social sites.
In addition to social media networking, virtual events have now become extremely popular. Virtual events grew in 2020 and will definitely become more of the norm moving forward. According to a Grand View Research report done in June of 2020, global virtual events are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2% from 2020 to 2027. Whether these virtual events are for communication, recruitment, sales and marketing or training, they all make for good opportunities to network and meet new people.
And while the number of places to connect with people has certainly grown, the way we approach these connections shouldn’t have to change.
Networking, no matter where you do it, should be about building relationships. Unfortunately, traditional sales networking is one of the most painful activities in the business world. It usually involves salespeople communicating awkwardly with over-enthusiastic pitches to others that don’t care to hear them because they are busy trying to do the same thing. It takes a great deal of energy to listen to these pitches. They usually begin with some flattery or niceties and then go straight to asking for business. The whole process can become a big blur. The collection of business cards, email addresses or LinkedIn profiles, names of companies and the services they provide. Everyone wants to talk more than they want to listen. These people are all very much alike and the most important thing is to stand out from the crowd while networking. It’s about building relationships. Not selling!
Is sales networking even possible without selling? It seems like the exact opposite of what should be done. But it works. Building relationships is far more valuable than gathering connections. Relationships can be established at events and online by giving people energy rather than taking it out of them. When communicating, be fully present, don’t pitch anything and be curious and eager to learn about other’s businesses. In doing this, relationships are built on a more personal level. Others will be aware of what you do, not because they are told in a pitch, but because they become interested enough to ask.
By developing real relationships, the value provided is in being more than just an acquaintance but a trusted friend. That is the key to networking. To quote Jay Danzie – “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark”.