networkingObviously I don’t really benefit from going to networking events because my Osteopath clients are worldwide rather than local.  However, for you, it is far more important to turn up at networking events and make new connections.

As I always say, I believe our job as business owners in the service industry is to educate our communities so that they can make informed choices about whether or not to employ our services.  The better known we become, the more chance we have of being liked.  The more we are liked, the more we are trusted.  The more we are trusted, the more business we will do.

Here’s how I succinctly put it:  Marketing + building relationships + trust = business

Bearing in mind that most of my work is done behind a laptop, via Skype and phone and alone at home, I recently decided to join a local networking group.  I thought it would do me good to mix with some other business owners.  Called Link4Growth, they tend to meet up at places like Costa Coffee and so far I haven’t been charged a bean!

Last week, I went along and there were probably twenty people chatting and drinking coffee.  I said hello to a couple of people I had talked with two months previously.  One gorgeous lady was wearing some simply lovely jewellery and I remembered that she made it herself.  I asked her why she hadn’t brought some along for sale as there were plenty of men there who wouldn’t have a clue what to buy their wives for Christmas!  Sadly, an easy and subtle marketing opportunity missed.

So we had a general natter about how things were going and then into the room walked a tall lady whose aura came before her!  Just one of those people who you know will become a good friend.  She introduced herself and we got chatting, exchanging our information.  She was a Reiki master and sold some sort of products which she is going to give me some samples of next time.  No idea what it was, as she didn’t push it but merely planted the seed.

Then a tiny lady muscled in on the conversation and got rather over-excited.  She wanted to know all about what we did and then very quickly interrupted our stories saying, “I want to speak!  Can I speak now please?”

Then she attempted to explain her business but we were all really confused.  As she got more excited about it she got more animated and laughed more raucously and still we didn’t really know what she did.

Then a matching little guy, spying her twittering, came over and rudely told her that she had two ears and one mouth and to listen!  He was her husband.  Then he launched his own tirade of incomprehensible babble.  I could only gather that he gave three free weekends a year to train business people to increase their success but gave no further details about how he then made his own income.

The rest of us girls started to shift uncomfortably.  We were being talked AT!  We felt cornered.  We felt hijacked and unnerved.

Being completely unable to read his audience’s closed and bored faces, he continued as excitedly as his wife had and in the process failed to make any impact on us other than cause great irritation.

Some other network marketers had done this to me also on the previous occasion I had attended and I felt really violated to be so aggressively sold to.

What the snake oil salesman failed to do was to begin to nurture relationships with us.  He behaved as if he had one chance only to convert us into revenue.  Rather than calmly talk a little bit about what he did, he seemed rather desperate.  And desperation is an ugly dish.

Going back to the group of us girls chatting earlier, nobody tried to sell jewellery, Reiki or business coaching. We formed early friendships, we asked questions, we listened intently and we showed interest.  I think it is highly likely that I will buy some Reiki from ‘my new best friend’ and some handmade and beautiful jewellery from the other lovely lady.  In turn, either one of them, at some point, may like some help from me with marketing their businesses.  If that’s the case, then I will be delighted to give them a little coaching to help them increase their sales.  In fact, I already have several ideas for if or when they do – I just can’t help it!  My brain is naturally geared towards spotting opportunities and potential.

My ‘new best friend’ actually put her hand up towards the tiny talkative lady and the snake oil salesman and bravely asked them to stop talking about it anymore.  She then pulled me to one side, whipped out her diary and loudly declared, with a huge wink, that we must fix that date to meet up!  Now that’s a better way to go networking.  With some integrity.