Is there someone you have wanted to network and connect with who is the business VIP of your greatest hopes and biggest dreams? Is there someone who – if you were able to make contact and develop a business relationship with them – would be able to significantly change your business and maybe even your life?
People might have told you, “Just ask. It never hurts to ask.” But good thing you’ve hesitated… it can hurt to ask in the wrong way. Seth Godin has an iconic blog post where he unequivocally states that it can hurt to ask. It’s a classic mistake made by many who use business networking. Instead of “asking” for ways to build a relationship, they immediately ask for the sale. If they don’t need the product or service or if the ask for the sale is clumsily done, the answer is “no” and the door to future opportunities to connect is shut.
Here’s how to ask the right way – or at least the way that will keep the door to possibilities open. The first thing to do was already mentioned above. Approach this as a business to business networking opportunity, not a sales opportunity. If you’re just looking for the sale, then send in your top sales person to make the cold call, do the presentation and then ask for the order. Or make a long list of executives to approach for the sale and start working your way through it. “Hello, do you want to buy my stuff?… No?… Okay, thanks.” This is a dismal way to find out exactly how many people there are in your target market.
If you are targeting VP’s of Purchasing or CEO’s, understand that they have been the target of sales people for their entire career. It’s one of the reasons they tend to be very selective with the networking events that they do. Think you’re tired of getting sales pitches from over-enthusiastic “networkers” at events? Imagine having a budget that makes sales people salivate. You’d be tough to reach, too.
Unless you’re an experienced and well-trained sales person who has a proven approach to working with VIP’s, “just asking” for the sale or even just the connection can hurt if you take the wrong approach. There’s a way, though, that might not be the absolutely one and only “right” way to connect with VIP’s, but there is a way that is more productive and more likely to produce results for everyone. Look for the companion article to this, called “Business Network Development Strategy: How to Connect with the VIP of Your Networking Dreams” for ideas on making the right approach.