To sell, or not to sell?

by Charlie Lawson on March 2, 2012 · 3 comments

I was out at an early morning networking meeting in Croydon the other week, when I met an enthusiastic businessman, who was promoting a combined fire and security protection system.

It was about 10 minutes to 7 when he approached me, shook my hand enthusiastically, and proceeded to hard sell his amazing new solution that would solve all of my domestic fire protection and security needs.  Did I want to buy, at the amazing introductory price of £199.99?

Er… no.

In times of economic difficulty, we’re always told that the best way to generate new business is by networking – and many of us put untold pressure on ourselves because we go out networking trying to make a sale or two.  After all – we’ve all got to put food on the table.

This pressure to make sales drives businesspeople to become increasingly desperate in their attempts to sell: but they get no tangible results.  This leads people to become worried about even attending events, as fears of networking being a waste of time are realised: end result – no business being generated.

There is a fundamental problem with going to a networking event trying to sell: even if the buying process for your product/service is very simple, there’s no paperwork to fill out, and the buyer has their chequebook on them – you’re still not going to sell anything.  Why – because no one goes out networking to buy!  Think about it – have YOU ever gone out networking with the intention of buying anything???

So – what should we do instead?  Networking is all about building relationships – finding a little about people so that you can decide whether you want to take the relationship further.  If you do, great, swap cards, and arrange to follow up – be that by email, or at a future 1-1 appointment.

You never know – our friend in Croydon’s fire and security protection system might have been just what I needed: but his approach made sure I’ll never find out.

I’d love to hear all about your experiences of building relationships through networking – please do share…

Charlie Lawson
Charlie Lawson – BNI National Director and Word of Mouth marketing expert, whose passion is to see BNI members succeed in their businesses.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Parkinson-Hardman March 6, 2012 at 10:16

I was at an exhibition last week in London and I’d gone specifically to meet two objectives – the first was to meet some of the companies that I thought might be able to help me and the second was to learn as much as I could by listening to the seminars and workshops that were on offer. You can imagine how I felt when the first session I went to was no more than a sales pitch with no ‘content’ to speak of. Fortunately it improved dramatically in the following 3 sessions and I came away with my head full of opportunities, thoughts, plans and ideas. This is how I love to leave a networking meeting – having learnt something and helped someone and I can’t do that if I’m selling. So thanks Charlie for highlighting this issue as it’s important we don’t forget it.

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Angela Lewis March 13, 2012 at 09:36

Hi Charlie, I just read your blog and I feel exactly the same way, I am a member of BNI Dylan chapter and I also run a free rugby business network which is on tonight, I hope you don’t mind but I have pinched your blog to read out tonight, I always say the same at my meetings but it will be interesting to read from another person’s point of view, there are so many people who go out networking trying to sell and then they bad mouth the event if they don’t get anything from it. I try to tell all members of my network, it’s about giving, what can you give of value to another member, and that doesn’t apply to referrals alone, it applies to advice, support or however you feel you can help a fellow business person, “give and thou shalt receive” is a very underused quote, and of course forming relationships is key.

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Charlie Lawson March 13, 2012 at 15:42

Angela – many thanks for commenting – I’d be honoured if you wanted to use the blog at the event tonight!

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