a woman weight up symbols that represent effective networking through selling vs sharing.

Sharing vs Selling – The Key to Effective Networking

Many people believe that business networking is all about the hard sell. There is a stereotype that networking is a group of professionals sitting around in their suits and ties, just trying to sell, sell, sell. The thought of going into a setting like that can be quite intimidating as a first-time networker and can potentially prevent new business owners from attending and benefiting from networking groups.

When you first come to a networking group, especially if you’re nervous, you might feel like you need to sell yourself or your products/services to the group. How else will you benefit from the network and get more business?

What we’ve seen over the years is that networking is more nuanced than just promoting yourself. In fact, there seem to be two types of networkers – those that sell themselves, and those that share who they are.

So, what’s the difference between selling and sharing? And how can it make anyone a networking master?

Selling is usually a transactional approach, where the end goal is getting more clients, reaching KPIs, and earning more money. Sharing has a more relational and educational approach; it’s about meeting people and making genuine connections. Most experienced businesspeople can tell the difference between the two and lean towards one or the other.

It’s the difference between ‘This is my product/service, and this is why you need it,’ and ‘Here’s my product/service, let me tell you more about it so you can make an informed decision.”

Sellers are often focused on short-term outcomes. They want to get people engaged quickly and buying often. If this style of networking is right for you and your business, the key to success is to lower your expectations and be respectful. Not everyone wants, needs, or can afford your products or services at any given moment. Networking is a long-term game for sellers too. New Zealanders don’t particularly like being sold to; they’d much prefer to build a trust-based relationship before buying.

Sharing on the other hand, is a longer-term strategy for networking. People that focus on sharing are often more interested in building relationships and educating their networking groups than getting an instant sale. This process takes time, which can affect the speed in which they get work. But their clients can know that the relationship is based on mutual respect, a genuine liking, and trust, which is often the key to a long-term relationship.

Selling and sharing both have their place in the networking world. To become a networking master, you need to figure out which of these styles resonates with you. There’s no point trying to be one if you’re really the other. In our opinion, a little bit of both is needed. Sharing is needed to build authentic relationships and connect with others and selling is needed so that people know what you do and end up buying from you.

If you’re a seller, one way to master networking is to build relationships with like-minded people in industries like yours.  This way you can create a referral circle that benefits you, them, and your customers. It’s a win-win-win!

If you prefer sharing, one thing to keep in mind is to not sell yourself short. It can be easy to focus on other people, but you must make sure that you don’t downplay your product, services, or skillset. Otherwise, people could underestimate the strength of your business or overlook your expertise when giving or looking for recommendations.

Either way, it is important to find a networking environment where you can thrive. Some business networking organisations are more geared toward people that prefer selling, and others suit those that prefer sharing. Try a few out and see what works for you.

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