What is the Difference Between Networking and Selling?

26 10 2010

Remember, that I’ve previously shared with you that networking is the process of building and maintaining reciprocal relationships.  So, how is this different than selling?

One of the definitions of selling, according to Dictionary.com is, “to be employed to persuade or induce others to buy”.  You have a product and/or service that you are attempting to “persuade” or “induce” others to purchase in exchange for money (or sometimes for barter).  Therefore, the focus is on the deal.  Yes, you often try to and want to establish a relationship with the prospective client or customer, to ascertain their needs, and to influence / convince them that you can satisfy or exceed their needs with your product or service.

When networking, your focus should always be on the person, getting to know them, building rapport and trust, and looking for opportunities to help them, without any expectation of money, barter, or any other form of “payment”.

Recently, I facilitated a discussion about networking with a group of new realtors, and one of the realtors was very astute when she asked, “so when do I give them my business card?” and “when do I try to get a deal?” She had been very attentive during the firm’s excellent sales training, and she understands the concept of selling. I responded that when networking, when focusing on developing relationships, you don’t go for a deal, and you don’t offer your business card, unless asked for it in a mutual exchange of cards.

She then smartly asked, “so how do I differentiate myself?” I explained that you differentiate yourself by people getting to know you for who you are, not by your profession, but by your personality, your goodness, and your sincere involvement in the community.

I let her know that I sincerely appreciated her excellent questions, and that I, in no way, was there to challenge the sales training (what do I know about real estate sales?).  Instead I wanted to augment their sales efforts with networking, to offer the new realtors something more that they could do to help build their standing in the community and ultimately grow their business.  They now have a two-pronged marketing plan – to split their time and efforts between sales (e.g., door-knocking, cold calling, mailing and emailing, open houses, etc.) and networking (building relationships in the community).  Each will bring in business at different times, and in different ways.

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