Each time I am invited to speak to a good size audience, I can’t help but notice the subset of individuals who are clearly there hoping they can sell to someone (if not everyone) in the room. You know who they are.  They are the ones who approach the networking events like a contest to see how many business cards they can distribute and collect. It is as if someone told them that their goal is to collect as many business cards as possible and then, without permission, add those people to their email distribution list. They return to the office and proudly say “I went to the event with a stack of 60 cards, and I don’t have any left in my pocket!”  What an accomplishment, right?

So, what’s wrong with that approach?

How do you feel about those people? Do you secretly hope they will seek you out?  You avoid them like the plague, right? The simple fact is that you and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a sales pitch.  If they did collect a stack of business cards, what do those cards represent? They throw those names into their big sales machine. They will be shocked to learn that they have to pursue one-hundred opportunities to turn just one into a success. They then will say “It’s all a numbers game.” Well, it is a numbers game if you play it that way!

How about an example

You just cooked an amazing meal. In fact, you have a secret sauce that let’s your dish stand out. You are seeking the right “customer” for your meal made with chicken, cheese, pasta, and some other ingredients. There is a room of 100 potential diners. Which path makes the most sense?

  1. Hold every person hostage until they listen to you talk about your dish;
  2. Collect every person’s contact details, and call or email daily to describe your dish;
  3. Ask questions to see who is hungry. Then, rule out those who do not eat chicken, dairy, or pasta. Rule out those who are allergic to your other ingredients.

In this sense, it seems pretty darn easy (please tell me you picked “c”).  Most people in business however, may not even realize that they consistently choose option b. They harass those poor people for the rest of their natural lives.  It’s a lousy way to do business. It has to stop.

How can you do it better?

  1. Make it clear where you help people. You and I do not like to be on the receiving end of a sales pitch. But, we are happy to speak with someone who can help us solve an important challenge. This piece is an important element of the October Upside-Down Selling Immersion Program;
  2. Be specific about where you add the most value. You talk to two people in search of a chef for your Italian restaurant. The first person says they are a great international chef – including Italian food. They point out they could teach other chefs in nearly every type of cuisine. The second candidate shares that they trained in Italy, but joking says that other cuisines are still a mystery to her.When you say you do everything well, I assume you are lying. Be specific about who you can’t help and where you can add the most value;
  3. Don’t pitch a meeting. Instead of a goal of setting a meeting so you can give them your pitch, invest time uncovering issues that you might be able to solve. They might not have even been aware of those issues before your conversation. When you find the right people, they’ll be thrilled to find someone who might be able to help.

Your turn

What great stories can you share about someone pitching to you and your friends at an event?  I know there are some that are almost too good to be true.