Have you ever wanted to sell your services at a networking meeting, rather than waste your time developing relationships?

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I sat in total shock for a second. Then the thought crept around from the back of my skull, like warm blood oozing from a cut, I can’t just say what I’d like to say – it would be considered impolite.

I didn’t know whether to hold this man in awe, or be horrified at what had just happened. I’d just been sold to, bluntly, plainly, with no real chance of backing out – that wasn’t meant to happen!

Take a step back

In the middle of a networking meeting we had a “one to one”. We chatted amiably for a minute (nothing specific; just the kind of stuff that some people think should never be on social media- yes that’s it getting to know each other stuff).

Then in the middle of the conversation he paused, drew breath and asked me to do him a favour. Would you stop him at that point? Would I trial his product! Before I had a chance to say no (although that was difficult) he went on, told me about the stuff and then used the assumptive close (thanking me and stating that I would trial it, for free).

The old style selling trick

In the middle of a room of people, it’s hard to create a scene; it’s actually quite hard to upset somebody’s feelings. So trick part one was to be that blunt and make it hard for me to say no.

The assumptive close (an even older trick) made it harder still.

Should I be amazed at the effectiveness of his actions (after all I didn’t say no), or shocked that I was approached like this, in a networking meeting?

Selling or networking: Does it matter if you get the sale?

From a networking perspective it was, the end of a (potential) relationship. I’m one person he can’t count on to pass referrals, although we subsequently acted politely to each other in meetings.

But who cares? Being realistic for a moment, consider all of the potential relationships one meets in networking meetings – most of them will go nowhere (or am I cynical?).

Some people are more able to give you referrals than others, the trick is to realise which ones and focus on them.

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If that’s the case, was he right? Does it matter if he just attempted an old style sales trick (and it worked)?

I had the product (or agreement to trial a service, it wouldn’t matter) in my hand as I walked from that meeting. Traditional selling says that’s the important point in the sale and that most people will buy something at that point (haven’t you ever been to a sales party for plastic tubs, cookery equipment or something else?).

How would you feel? Was I right to feel shocked, or should we just accept that there are different (and equally valid) ways to achieve the aim from networking meetings? After all, we all go to them in order to get business?

Jon BakerWritten by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Networking is a key part of getting great results in small firms. If you want great networking tips sent to your desk once a month, click here and I will start sending them to you, so you can make a real difference to your referrals.