Since when was networking not about selling?

Source: Unsplash/@soyhivan.

Networking, engaging, connecting and social media is such a minefield of protocols and processes that people are now getting confused by it.

I have been in the business of networking and connecting with the people for most of my working life, but I’ve noticed a profound change in how these events are conducted and how people’s behaviour has changed in recent years.

What’s with all the rules, the do’s and don’ts, the LinkedIn pods, the fake events and seminars?

What’s with those who are pretending not to be selling but really are?

What’s with all the time wasters, sales animals and pretenders?

If you have been to an event recently or taken part in a networking platform, you will more than likely have experienced some of these gripes of mine. 

There has been a movement for many networking tribes and cells to have a no-selling policy. That’s right, you can enter a room of people but if you are trying to sell something you will be banished from the tribe quicker than a food-hoarding Survivor contestant. 

Are these people all rolling up because they have no intention of developing and growing their business?

It’s a lovely comfort blanket that they place over the group to feel they aren’t there to build a business, but instead, mix with friends. But I can mix with my own friends and not pay thousands of dollars for the privilege.

The first question any business or individual should be asking when attending or being involved in networking events is: ‘What is my ROI and what value will this bring to my business by being there?’

Then there is the other networking model that charges both attendees and the industry experts looking to present their intellectual property and knowledge. I think we have all been to one of these where you feel you have paid for the pleasure of someone pitching a product or service to you. I blame the attendee as much as I blame the expert pitching the service for allowing themselves to be caught up in this model. Do your homework before attending any event and look at the speakers. What’s the purpose of the event and what business is each speaker involved in? 

An extension to the above networking model that’s taking hold across the country now, under the guise of leadership development, is that the attendees aren’t paying for the expert speaker to be in the room, the experts are paying for it. There is an apparent respect for each other’s time and selling is prohibited, but that doesn’t apply to the organiser, who has two revenue streams, while the attendees who’re paying to attend, are blissfully unaware of the set-up. 

All the gurus in the LinkedIn space are telling me that it is a social platform, not a selling platform.

Whereas LinkedIn describes itself as: “A social media platform geared to professionals. It enables you to network and to build your professional portfolio, but you can also go out into the world and look for a new job.”

The greatest sell of all is getting a new job and promoting yourself as that next employee. So why do the experts in this space say it isn’t about selling when that is the only reason people are there.

Sure, they have a few ideas on how to use it better, but ultimately, they are saying network like you would in person, while online. The classic pitch from a LinkedIn professional is them telling you everything you are doing wrong and then in the very next paragraph asking you to buy their package or workshop to see how to do it right.

Ahhh, right, you’re selling.

I agree with the experts who say that just because you’ve made a Linkedin connection, or have someone’s business card or contact details, that doesn’t give you permission to go straight for the jugular with pitching and selling.  I always cringe and kick myself for accepting a connection and then look for the disconnect button on the rare occasion it happens. It’s rare because I have been discerning with my network.

You have the power to keep your networks tight, keep them valuable and connect with people that you are aligned with.

Building trust, value and reputation is what any reputable person does.

Just don’t pretend that when you go to a networking event or participate in a networking platform, that you are not looking to sell. Of course you are.

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