Networking events, I go to many of them, and have for most of my sales/marketing career. Often they are a great place to meet fellow entrepreneurs, but to me there is an unwritten etiquette that should be followed. First rule of thumb-present yourself honestly. Second rule- know the person you are talking to before you do a full dog and pony show pitch. I had an awkward first business meeting because someone didn't follow these rules.
A follow up meeting was set the next day post event with a "health/lifestyle coach" that I met. The time and place are picked, and we confirm the meeting day of. When I arrive, we exchange pleasantries, and then get down to business. The meeting agenda is set by us both: we want to learn about each others business, and how to potentially work together, great. It's give and get, and I go first. They are learning about me but as I'm talking they begin chiming in with possible solution hints throughout my 2 minute elevator pitch and "about me" presentation. It was subtle, but having been in sales for half my life, I begin to feel like this is not going to be the first introduction meeting I envisioned.
I felt like some sort of "pitch" was looming, and I had another meeting to get to, so I wrapped up my portion of speaking and we switched roles. This is when the binder came out. Yes-a 3 inch pitch binder from circa 2005. It's appropriate for some industries to present with today (like construction, building, supply, etc. in which you need a visual portfolio), however, in marketing/first meeting situations, this is missing the mark with technology standards. Also, how can you bring a full-blown presentation when you haven't learned about my needs or wants yet? Big turn off.
They begin the process flipping pages in the binder, reviewing the awesome lifestyle and freedom you have when selling said companies products; how everyone you know will use and want these items, and renewals happen like "snap" that. Then the verbal vomit as I call it happens-reviewing my common likes based on my about me pitch a few minutes ago, drink samples are whipped out from bags, description of the pyramid network of business they want to climb and their goals are told to me. Then it's more of their needs, then product, more product, more salesssssss. Pete Caputa has written several articles that talk about how backwards this type of process and sales approach is when trying to build long term relationships and repor. I wish this person had read some of them.
We are now an hour into this "conversation" and I interject; I see where this is going and hint my time is almost up so let's cut to the chase. The "where do you fit in" questions comes into play. I'm sorry, what? If you listened to me 45 min ago you'd know this is the opposite of my business growth process and not the type of partnership that I'm looking for-so how can I fit in?! It made me feel like they leaned in for a kiss when it wasn't warranted. Basically thanks, but no thanks.
Then came the last ditch effort of the basket of samples, as it was clear I was not going to be recruited to be the next regional VP in product sales in their network. As i'm getting showed them, I realize these products are used; this was a "test" set that they send you home with to "try" and return in 4-5 days. Wow. Some may or may not know this, but I am a germ OCD freak; if this is the sample program to get people to pay hundreds of dollars for products from Europe (which btw-I'll just go to Europe myself and buy them direct), this approach isn't going to work on germ conscious people. Yet, because I have a passion for observing sales people behavior, I of course had to see this process through; I was this far down the road already wasn't I?! I leave, and return a few days later with the "test" bag. (NOT used by me as I can't bring myself to "try" products that have been used by who knows who). This was when the final push of said reps needs, the product reviews, the "I'm one incentive away" close line happens. It was very one sided and can only work so many times before the market is saturated and everyone starts to feel pressured, awkward, annoyed, and un-engaged.
They made a small sale, it was the only way I could break free in only 15 minutes. I tell you this though, they won't hear from me again. The lack of honesty on what the actual business was in the first place, the bait and switch sales pitch, coupled with the fact that throughout the process there was never a real check in on how this was going are 3 major fails in process execution. Forbes had an article this week on a successful "multi tiered" sales program. It works for some, but read: many future awkward conversations with your Friends, Families, and Network when deciding to push products this way to make sales.
The art of creating strong brand trust, loyalty, up sell opportunities all while lowering customer churn is far harder, but WAY more fruitful to strive for than a one and done sale. There are different business ideals for different folks, but let my story be a great reminder on the importance of a good sales process when networking. Few may be successful selling with this process, but it doesn't mean happy connections are being made along the way. Remember to really know your prospect/target persona, listen more, and engage in a sales process that will lead to lasting partnerships, and a truly profitable situation for all parties involved.
Has this ever happened to you? What sales process no-no's do you want to warn people about?
Need help with improving your sales process? CLICK HERE to read more, or HERE to talk!
*final thought: I never know who I will meet, who people know, and how business can potentially develop-thus my willingness to take first introduction meetings with essential business strangers. The dishonesty in which the business was presented, then the bait and switch manner of product push, really turned me off to this entire sales approach. I will do a far better job next time of qualifying first meetings for the future. I dropped the ball in my own vetting process. Lesson learned.