Some people consider networking events to be a waste of time. Others consider them to be a gold mine. To be honest, networking is what you make of it. If you’re clear about your goals, engage in plenty of meaningful discussions, and have a clear follow-up strategy, you can accomplish a lot by attending networking events.

But, there is one piece of advice I must stress when conversing with people in your network: educate them – don’t sell! There is a difference between the two, and one can get you a lot further than the other.

Build Authentic Relationships through Educating

Before you start convincing people why they should try or buy your product or service, take some time to get to know your networking partners. Here are a few tips for doing so.

Be specific about who uses your product or service

Unless you’re selling toilet paper, chances are that not “everyone” or “anyone” uses your product. Avoid using broad, generic terms about your customers because this distances real people from your product. Instead, talk in terms of buyer personas and how your product helps them. This feels much more personalized and relatable.

Position yourself as an expert in your field

Another benefit of educating your network is that you get to position yourself as an authority in your field. These are the kinds of people that others trust when they’re ready to make a decision. People who just focus on selling appear to be in it for the money. To establish yourself as an expert, you must know your target customer, the struggles they face and the best solutions.

Connect with people who aren’t in ‘buying mode’

When you’re mingling at a networking event, people are looking to establish new connections and grow their network, not necessarily buy something. As a consumer, you can relate to how frustrating it is when someone tries to sell you something that you’re just not ready for. Avoid doing this to your connections, otherwise you might turn them off completely. Talk to them like people, discuss industry trends, bring up relevant issues, etc. to make your time most valuable.

Take Your Time Educating People – It Pays Off!

Remember, your job is to solve your customers’ problems. The way to do this is by selling them your product or service, but you have to approach it the right way. Otherwise, potential leads will think that you only care about your bottom dollar and not your customers. By educating the people you meet at networking events, you can position yourself as a trustworthy expert and build lifelong relationships that extend further than a simple transaction.