How often to you hear people sigh ‘I hate networking’ or ‘why can’t I learn how to sell?’? So much of the advice, assumptions and examples presented as good practices aren’t. Do you like being sold to? Most prefer to make their buying decisions without being badgered.
When people are ready to purchase, they go back to people they like. Usually these are individuals who have treated them well without expecting reciprocity and as a result, earned trust and respect. Personal selling is rarely about selling at all – it’s more about honing the art of truly listening.
For the past month, I’ve been involved in a wonderful initiative entitled “The Ultimate Blog Challenge.” Many involved were seasoned participants (I didn’t realize others in the group had taken the Challenge prior until several days into the game). As a newbie with a new blog, I was overwhelmed to start. With over 600 participants, the Facebook feed alone was dizzying. Just watching it for a moment, the volume of posts shifted the screen so quickly an entry you started to read would jump off the page before you could finish it.
What I realized quickly is people were involved for different reasons. Those overtly hawking their wares didn’t last. People who were sharing a passion did. Mostly, members were looking to give and get support while committing to an activity that was time consuming, overwhelming occasionally, inspiring and exhilarating.
Watching the dynamics of this group unfold reminded me of a networking event.
Some tried to keep their posts near the top of the FB thread seeking attention and eyeballs for more traffic. Depending on how it was handled, this worked for some. Similar to the public speaker who offers useful information and engages the audience, those who appeared genuine about supporting the group were embraced. If the intent seemed insincere or self-serving, they weren’t.
People clustered together based on interest groups. A lot of bloggers spotlighting family-related content became fast friends. Inspirational writers coalesced. Those with business related content tended to gather and gain insight from one another. Some bloggers were able to present messages with universal appeal. All who were successful in building a following did so one-on-one. Whether this was through commenting, private outreach or the many awards and chain letters that started making the rounds, those who stayed visible throughout made it personal.
When you go to a networking meeting, it’s the same. People often feel compelled to meet the speaker. Huddles form with board members, friends and those in related industries. New attendees retreat to corners or walls unsure how to engage. The most appreciated participant is the one who can see others who need help and provide it. Networking isn’t about how many business cards you shove at people or how slick your elevator pitch is. It’s about caring enough to recognize another’s challenge – and providing some early answers without expecting reciprocity.
Those who finished The Ultimate Blog Challenge feeling triumphant (some probably completed the Challenge without this vigor) adopted a philosophy of giving. While promoting their particular blog might have been an early goal, this changed as people recognized how much more rewarding it was to support others.
People forget when they’re networking or seeking support from a collective that it’s not what you sell today, it’s what you build for tomorrow.
As a result of my participation in the Ultimately Blog Challenge, I learned a lot from blog content, but more from witnessing how others rallied to assist fellow members. Surprising friendships developed with people I’ll probably visit in the future. I found a wonderful vendor to assist with some business challenges that have been plaguing me for a while. Discussions have started with a business owner overseas about a possible partnership on a project in line with some long-term objectives I’ve held.
Did I land any writing clients? Not yet, but that wasn’t my goal coming in. Will I likely get a good deal of referral business from the participants in this Challenge over the coming months and years? You can bet on it. Of course, until now, I haven’t mentioned this is a service I offer, but imagine people have figured it out.
Building a business, networking for an audience or personal selling isn’t about the quick fix. Demonstrating your character through an honest interest in others creates far more valuable returns in the long run.
The memories, education and friendships I’ve enjoyed through the Ultimate Blog Challenge – not to mention a good deal of content and some surprising rankings for a young site – will last.
Thank you to the special people who have touched me through this Challenge over the past month. What a great experience!