Networking is easy for some and painful for others—even for those that are good at it. Meeting new people, having small talk, trying to build business connections and deal flow...It’s always been a bit of a struggle for me personally. Somehow, I have trained myself to think that asking for business from people is a violation of a trust. Even if I think that one of my businesses has something to offer, I still have to fight the little voice in my head that says, “If you ask for business, then they will think that you are only friendly with them because you want something from them”.
This, of course, is ludicrous. To my closest friends and family, I am constantly suggesting products and services that offer solutions for them.
As I set a coffee appointment with a new contact this morning, I was reminded of the advice that most helped me overcome my anxiety of networking and asking for business. It came from a gentleman that built a dynamic sales career by selling books door to door. He rose through that company to become their head of worldwide sales. Believe it or not, they sold hundreds of millions of dollars of books...door to door. I figured if anyone knew how to ask for the sale and get comfortable with it, this would be the guy. So, I asked him for his secret.
I can’t recall his response verbatim, but it translated roughly as, “Focus first on how you can help them, and then ask for the sale.” It was poignant for me. I wondered if my anxiety in networking situations came from focusing on what I wanted out of the new relationship instead of focusing on listening and finding a way to help the person. I began to put it into practice, and it worked.
The power of sending a referral, making a connection, suggesting an unknown resource or sharing a piece of new information is amazing. For me, the most powerful part was that after giving something to a new contact, I no longer felt guilty about asking them for business.
The next time that you have coffee with a new contact or are talking with someone new at a networking event, try to find at least one way that you can immediately add value to them (it must be something for which you do not get paid). I have found that nothing fosters loyalty more than a willingness to give to someone without expecting something in return. Too many service providers believe that they have to protect the value of their knowledge (i.e. share it only with their paying clients). I have found the opposite to be true in business, in internet marketing and in life; the more knowledge that you share, the more business will come your way.