At every networking meeting whether large or small there will always be people who see it purely as a sales pitch opportunity.

These are the people who pounce on any new visitors, stuff a business card in their hand, or an immediate invite to connect on LinkedIn, and virtually say, “Well? When are you going to buy from me?”

To me, it’s no surprise when I later hear them complain that networking isn’t winning them any sales. Their approach is like going into a bar and grabbing the nearest group of drinkers to saying, “Hi! My name’s X. Here’s my card. Let me place an order for you now.” You just wouldn’t do it, would you?

Put it this way: would you buy from somebody who did this to you? I know I wouldn’t. I’d get away from them within 30 seconds, if not sooner!

So why would anyone take this approach when attending networking meetings? They might as well cover themselves in sales repellent spray – it simply won’t work, ever.

But what if that same person took time to get to know you, found out a little bit about your circumstances, listened to the issues you’ve had in the past? What if over the course of a couple of conversations, you realised you liked the person and would bear them in mind whenever you had a real need for their product or service? You might even begin to trust them and refer them onto another contact who might have a specific need right now.

Would you have felt like you’d been sold to? Probably not.

Would you have felt that you’d been listened to and understood? Probably, you would.

Would you buy from them if the time was right? Again, probably you would.

So, in any networking situation, I firmly believe that it’s far better to forget the initial sale and instead concentrate on building rapport and listening to the other person, giving them time to get to know, like and trust you. Then, when the time is right, the sale will come.

This approach is, and always will be, the way to get networking working for any business.

To help further here are my top 10 tips to help you build rapport and increase your chances of winning business in the long term:

1. Listen more than you talk.

2. Show that you are listening by nodding from time to time, saying “yes”, or confirming that you understand.

3. Maintain good frequent eye contact, without staring.

4. Ask open questions such as “What’s the biggest challenge you face right now? How have you tackled this so far?”

5. Link your next open question to what they just said, not what you were pre-prepared to say.

6. Listen for their speech patterns and mirror their language. If they are a visual person you might say, “Yes I see what you mean” or if they are an auditory person you might say, “I hear what you say.”

7. Get them in a “yes” frame of mind by saying something that they are unlikely to disagree with such as, “growing sales can be a challenge for any business, can’t it?”

8. Use light and shade. Ask probing questions but lighten the mood where possible with humour or an observation. They shouldn’t feel that they are being interrogated.

9. Let them decide how they would like to carry the conversation forward. See whether they feel a phone call or a further meeting is the next stage. The more they own the next step the more likely they are to be open and receptive to your proposal AND YOUR TERMS!

10. Overall, forget the sale – just concentrate on them.

PS: Don’t forget to download your free negotiation skills audit by clicking here