Have you ever found yourself in a busy networking event, feeling drained and disconnected as you attempt to navigate the sea of pitches and self-promotion?
That's where I found myself recently, moderating a panel for a local Women's Enterprise Centre event. As an introvert, I was anticipating the usual energy suck. But instead, I found myself energized, and it set off a light bulb moment. Networking (aka connection) events aren't the problem: WE are.
We've all been there - the dreaded 'pitchslap', where, without even a ‘how do you do’, someone is smacking you in the virtual face with their latest offer. (It's no wonder so many people are in their feelings about sales and lead generation.)
Connection in business has traditionally been more about transactions than genuine human connection, and it's taking a toll. Instead of feeling compelled to sell or to be sold to, I wanna share a different approach: create authentic connections, cultivate trust, and personalize your interactions. Sales are important, of course, but they shouldn't overshadow making real connections because you took time to see the human behind the dollar signs.
In the cut-throat world of business, maintaining honesty and transparency may seem like a tall order. But instead of the usual BS, it's time we focus on building enduring relationships. After all, it's through these genuine connections that we lay the foundations of lasting success.
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Schedule a no stings "Let's Talk Business" call today and find out what small shifts you can make to work less and double your profitability....
Welcome to the Business Blasphemy podcast, where we question the sacred truths of the online business space and the reverence with which they're held. I'm your Sarah ,Khan, , speaker, strategic consultant and BS busting badass. Join me each week as we challenge the norms, trends and overall bullshit status quo of entrepreneurship to uncover what it really takes to build the business that you want to build in a way that honors you, your life and your vision for what's possible, and maybe piss off a few gurus along the way. So if you're ready to commit Business Blast for Me, let's do it. Hello, hello, blasphemers. So I am recording this hot off the heels. Is that the right phrase? I'm not even sure. I went to my very first yes, my very first. I realized we're three and a half years post COVID, but this is my very first networking event. Yesterday I was invited to be a moderator at a breakfast event here for the local women's enterprise center and it was really cool. I got to moderate a conversation between three really fascinating creative entrepreneurs and I'd never moderated a panel before. I've spoken a number of times, but I've never moderated a panel, and so it was super stressful because I had to keep time and I don't like to interrupt people, so I kept watching the clock because I knew that we had a number of questions to get through and that they had to really, kind of you know, keep it tight. And it turned out really, really well. I was very happy with how the conversation went and just our interactions and the three women who were on the panel Holy Dina, like dynamic women just doing such amazing things and just like really interesting backstories. And there were about there were over a hundred people in the room and it was, like I said, my first in real life in person networking event, since we all went online and sort of remote because of the pandemic and it's. You might be thinking, well, why is it taking you so long to do that? And the reason is because my business is an online business. Most of it, all of my clients, are actually, at this point, us based and a lot of the networking groups and things that I'm a part of they are all virtual because there are people that are from all over North America in them and some, you know, even across the pond in Europe in different places. So I haven't really had a reason to go in real life. And, as somebody who is an introvert like I. Really you might not think this. Listening to me on social or listening to my podcast, or even if you've been on a coffee chat with me, you may not believe this but I am actually incredibly socially awkward. I am very shy. I do not do well in big groups. I do not engage in conversation easily. Like, I'm very shy, I really have to be drawn out, I have to feel comfortable, and I think that's the case for most people, but for me I'm just. It's something I've never been comfortable with. And so for me, when I go to in real life events, I'm always worried because I know I'm going to have to take time off to reenergize myself, right, and that really is the curse of the introvert, right? You may not necessarily be averse to going out. Like maybe you like to actually go out and be social, but you need that time to kind of recharge and recuperate afterwards. And so when I went to this breakfast, I fully intended to have some downtime afterwards to kind of replenish my energy, but weirdly I didn't need it. And here's the reason why I thought about this after a conversation with my friend, jennifer Battle today. For the last three and a half years, the vast majority, if not all actually, of my networking connection kind of interactions have either been on sales calls or in coffee chats or they've been in like networking groups that have a very clear sales kind of focus to them. And then I started to think to myself was this the case before we went remote? Was this the case when I was in corporate? And honestly, yeah, networking events were all about who's palm can you grease, who's back Can you scratch? You know, we got to make connections for the benefit of the business. So a lot of them were very salesy, like what do you do? What do you do? And then I started to think to myself what if? I'm not actually an introvert? What if? And then I started to think to myself like I'm not actually an introvert, I'm not actually an introvert, I'm not actually an introvert, I'm not actually a introvert, I'm not actually. Most of us aren't actually introverts. What if? The problem is that we have all been taught how to connect in a way that is actually just really shitty. We go out with the intention of connecting with people, but traditionally all of our connections, how we've been taught to connect with people, has been transactional. Think about every networking event you've ever been to. If you've been to them in real life, what is it? It's usually a business card fest, where people are handing out business cards. What do you do? Well, I do this, and they respond with their one minute elevator pitch and you do the same and then they'll move to the next group. Or, as was my experience in quite a few networking events, people would just come with colleagues and then just kind of hang out with their colleagues, or they would stand by the buffet table and no one really wanted to talk to new people. And I'll never forget my very first networking event in real life. Like, okay, honestly, if you don't believe that I am super awkward, I'll tell you exactly what I did. I was so nervous at my very first networking event that I took my stack of business cards. I sat in my car for like a half an hour. I had to really psych myself to go in. And then I went in and there were already like little groups of people standing around the room and I had no idea how am I going to interject myself into these conversations? That's the other thing too. A lot of these events. They feel really clicky, like if you don't already know the people. It's kind of hard to interject yourself into there. So I would like walk up to random groups and just kind of like stick out my business card and go hi, my name is Sarah and I give them my business card and go here's my business card. I would love to chat if you have the time and I would leave and go to another group. Like it was so bad I'm not even gonna lie, it was really really bad and obviously nobody responded, like nobody called me, which is not a surprise. But what do you usually do when you get business cards? Anyway, most of us will put them in a folder somewhere. I mean, come on stationary stores, amazon, they make a lot of money on those business card folios you can file them all into. But how often do you actually go into your business card folio and connect with people, unless you have a very specific need, right? Unless it's like a service provider and you're like I have a very specific need, I'm going to look for that person that I met and then blah, blah, blah. That's different. But it's also transactional, right? The vast majority of how we've been taught to connect is transactional. What can you do for me and what can I do for you, and yes, it's always in that order. It's never what can I do for you, and then we'll see what you can do for me. It's always what can you do for me, and then I'll see what I can do for you, and that feels of an equivalent value in my perspective. So this is the problem. This is the problem. Now there are a lot of places and courses and blog articles that will teach you tips and tricks to make networking more interesting and effective. Ask the other person about themselves, because people like to talk about themselves. It's a really great way for them to remember who you are, because, hey, that person asked me about myself. I used to teach this shit when I was teaching in college. I know right, but these are the kinds of tips and tricks that they're teaching you to try to make you more interesting. But that's kind of my point today. Why is it so hard to actually just be interesting and effective, like when you look at what humans are? We are social creatures by nature. We should be able to have conversations with other humans without having to read a 36-chapter textbook on how to do that. And, yes, I understand all of the variables. I understand things like anxiety makes it hard to connect with people. I understand the impact social media has on people don't really know how to connect in real life anymore because all of our interactions are online and they're limited. My dad will often laugh at us because my siblings and I we don't ever call each other. We text each other. But he still likes to call and the reason is because it's like, well, if we don't have anything really really important to convey, we just text each other, and that's because we know we have busy lives and they'll get back to me when they can and there's no sort of expectation of an immediate response, et cetera, et cetera. But the truth is, once we started going online, it got harder and harder to actually remember how to connect in a human way. When I went to this breakfast yesterday, I was actually really worried. It was like I have no idea how to make small talk and I mean I never really have. I've never been a small talk person. Like if you meet me and we get on, you're going to learn pretty much everything there is to learn about me and I'm going to want to know everything there is to learn about you. Like I just go straight for the tell me the real truth about you. So I was really worried, like, am I going to overshare, et cetera, and that's, I think, a normal fear that most people have. But again, social media being online, being digital, that's made it a lot harder. I know that this younger generation of people, generation Z, does have a lot of challenges connecting with other human beings. It's just not something that has kind of stayed in the mainstream and I don't have an answer for that, like I don't really know how to fix that. But what I can talk about is how all of that is kind of seeping into the online space, right, the business space. People have no idea how to connect. Case in point the pitch slap. Yes, we all have services to sell, we all have offers that we want to sell. I get it. And, yes, we all know that the vast majority of us are online in these spaces doing business, trying to make money. That is not something I'm disputing, okay, but I don't believe that it has to be at the expense of just being a decent human being with social graces. What is a pitch slap? It's my phrase, my term for when someone slides into your DMs with a hey girl kind of message and you'll know what I'm talking about is kind of a throwback to the old network marketing. You know shenanigans. But when they slide into your DMs with a message and immediately start pitching their services to you or their offers or hey, join my group or come to my workshop like they immediately start pitching you. Now there are a lot of ways that people do this. There is the straightforward pitch slap. The worst one is what's happening lately is they'll message you and ask you if you're still taking clients and when you respond they use the old bait and switch and sell you their lead generation services. Like, oh, you're taking clients, well, how about if you had 75 clients instead of the three that you can normally get? I can get you 75 vetted clients. Like they completely bait and switch you. It's really gross. Or they start with really obviously scripted conversations with the intention of quote unquote, leading the prospect. That's disgusting. So a sales conversation by trying to, you know, suss out their pain points or whatever it is. Now, first of all, I want you to understand I do not have a problem with sales. Sales is kind of critical. If you have a business, all right, we all want to make sales. But what a lot of people fail to understand is that sales are very often, especially now, the byproduct of genuine connection. Let me say that again Sales is the byproduct of genuine connection. Underscore genuine when you look at the stats. People don't generally buy especially high-ticket products or services From people they don't know or like or trust. I'm sure you've heard the term no-like trust. You have to cultivate your no-like trust in order for people to buy from you. The thing is, they can't get to the no-like trust without getting to know you. Now, yes, anyone can sell lower ticket or even free stuff to get people into their ecosystem, but what do you do then? How do you lead them to the next level? How do you lead them to actually working with you? People need to know you and they need to know you care about them. That does not mean asking a bunch of scripted market research questions to get their input or their insights. Genuine connection takes time and consistent, intentional connecting. Here are some of the things that I've started to do. When I have a new coffee chat, just as an example, I do keep a spreadsheet of names, and those spreadsheets will have information on what that person does, how we met, the things we talked about and what they like, and the last time we spoke face to face, I keep track of their likes specifically because when I come across something that I know they're going to be interested in, I will send it to them. Here's the bottom line. If you've ever received a meme from me or a weird real or TikTok video, you know I have taken the time to get to know you and I'm sending you this because I truly think you're going to enjoy it. I don't spam people with memes in the hopes of calling it connection. I send them things that I know they're going to understand and get because I've taken the time to get to know them. Or I will send them an article if I find something oh, this reminds me of so-and-so. Or I will comment on their content. There's reasons why these people trust me and they are in my ecosystem regularly. Then what I'll also do is I will schedule it in my calendar to reach out and connect with them regularly. That may sound mechanical or not very quote-unquote genuine, but honestly, the reason I schedule it is because we are all so busy that I will forget or a ton of time will pass if I don't. It's more for me to remember to reach out to people, because I will forget. I have a busy life. You all have busy lives. I also have it in my list of things to do each week to go and just look at certain people's content, because you can't really rely on the algorithm. The algorithm will show you what it wants. Believe me, it does not have your best interests at heart, but if there are people that you really want to stay connected to, you need to make sure you're checking in with them regularly. That's one of the things about social media that's really terrible. It's wonderful in the sense that it allows us to be connected with people all over the world, but a really terrible thing about it is that it makes us think we are connected to people simply because we can see their content. It makes us feel like we have recently been in touch. We have recently connected with each other when we haven't Not intentionally. I saw you post something, so I feel like I know what's going on in your life, but have I spoken to you? Have I heard your voice? Have I seen your face? Have we had a text conversation? No, then the other thing I do is I also try not to be friends with everybody. I'm very intentional about who I let into my spaces and who I spend time interacting with. Not everyone is a friend and, honestly, not everyone is a prospect. First of all, I hate the word prospect. I think it's really gross, but that's a word that everybody understands the context of. So not everyone's a lead or a prospect or a mark or a target, whatever you want to call them. They are human beings. If I can't see myself being your friend on some level and I'm not talking about we've got to invite each other over and braid each other's hair I'm saying somebody that I could have a conversation with on a semi-regular basis. If I can't see myself having that kind of connection with you, it's very unlikely I'm ever going to want to work with you. If I don't like to hear what you have to say, if I'm not interested in your insights or your inputs, we're probably never going to work together. Now, granted, this doesn't apply if your business model or your goal is to just sell a high volume of products, for example, and that's fine. If your business model is something that I just need a ton of followers, and that's good enough, that's great. But even then, your no-like trust factor, aka your credibility, is going to be an important aspect in your success. So what are some of the things that you can do to really cultivate genuine connection? This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, okay, but I'm going to give you some of the things that you know. I've been hearing from friends, from peers in the space, from colleagues in the space and just stuff that really pisses me off and I wish people would do differently. If you're going to reach out to people in the DMs, especially if they've accepted your friend request, please personalize your outreach. The number of people I've heard from who have been pitch slapped or just cold DMed and asked stupid questions like what do you do? Tell me about what you do. It's like if you actually looked at my profile, you would see exactly what I do. So do the research. Personalize your outreach. Let the person know that you're actually interested and they're not just a target. Get rid of all the scripts. Get rid of all the scripts. Trust me, they are tired. People can tell when you're not being authentic. They can tell when you're not being genuine. Most people have a really good radar of hmm, something feels off, okay. Also, please don't sell immediately. It's such a fucking turn off. And don't do the bait and switch. It's bullshit and it's just not nice. Period the bait and switch, like, honestly, you are already setting the bar really low because I already can't trust you. So what exactly are you going to say to me to now not only earn my trust, but regain the trust that you lost in bait and switching me? You think it's clever? Look at me, I'm such a great salesperson. No, you're fucking not Stop it. Also, there is no set number of interactions that you should have, like messages exchanged back and forth. Before it's okay to pitch somebody in the DMs or anywhere else, you have to really be able to read the relationship. Sometimes you do have a great conversation with somebody, but guess what? Maybe you intended for them to be a sales prospect down the road, but maybe in having that genuine conversation with them, you realize they're not actually the right fit for you, because that's something else right. You need to have that level of discernment of being able to say well, I do like this person, but I'm probably never going to be able to serve them in the best way possible. And that starts by being authentic, getting to know the person providing value without the expectation of reciprocity, and that providing value piece that can honestly be something as simple as providing feedback on a recent post so they know that you're actually looking at their content and seeing what they're putting out there. And yeah, engage with people's content. It is really not enough if you want to start building connections with people to just hit the like or the love or whatever icon is there, whatever reaction is there. It is not enough to just drop a random emoji. It's not enough to just post a generic comment like oh your content is so great, like comment with a fucking thought. Engage means to have a back and forth right. So if they've posted and I get it sometimes you just don't have the capacity and you scroll and like just so people know you're alive and just the algorithm knows that you're alive. I get it, I've all been there and I'm not saying that every single time you're on social media. It has to be some really engaging thing. But you do want to have regular periods of engagement where you are going into people's content, reading it, digesting it and then commenting with something thoughtful. As an aside, the vast majority of us in the business space create a shit ton of content and 90% of it that's not a real stat, it's just how it feels, but I'm sure it's pretty damn close. 90% of it feels like it just goes off into the ether right Because everybody's so focused on what they're posting and there are very few conversations happening. So if you're feeling like that, then take a pause and go engage with other people's content, have conversations, don't wait for them to come to you and then, once you've actually started getting to know people, invite them for a coffee chat and do not pitch, slap them there. My friend, jennifer Battle, who I was talking about at the top of the episode she's been on the podcast a couple of times and she has a great list of things that you can do to really excel in the coffee chat space. If you're interested, go back and listen to episode five. But the bottom line is, when you invite someone on a coffee chat, that is not the place to sell. It is not a sales call. It's a call to get to know someone I will never forget. Way before I came into the online space and probably before we were really into online entrepreneurship, when I was heavy into the MLM piece of my journey I will never forget. A friend invited me for a coffee and this was a friend I hadn't seen for a while and I was really excited to catch up with him and see what was going on. And we met at. It was a Starbucks, I think. Of course it was a Starbucks. We're also not going to go and we sat down and she came in with a giant trunk of stuff. Okay, she sat down, said hello, we had very cursory kind of greetings and then immediately she went into the pitch. She opened up her trunk and started pitching me her latest MLM venture. That, my friends, does not feel nice. It does not feel nice. I'm sure there are many of you out there have experienced something similar. I want you to take that and relate it to the online space. When you are on a coffee chat with somebody, you're getting to know them. You're allowed to have just casual conversation with people that doesn't require selling and, honestly, what that feels like is you don't actually like me or want to know anything about me. You just want to get into my wallet. Can you see the unspoken parallel here? People don't generally buy from anyone who makes them feel like shit, so we really need to start changing the conversation around connection in the online space, because it is making it really challenging for people who are genuinely interested in connection, because I feel this too. I have felt this on a number of occasions the minute you message someone, their alarms go off. Is this person going to pitch, slap me? Are they genuine? When I get friend requests, I will go to that person's profile to see what they're all about and what I've learned and this is just my own personal experience. I am not throwing shade, I'm not saying that this is standard or anything like that, but my experience has been when someone friend requests you and you go to their profile and everything is about quick sales and lead generation, I don't know, 10 times if I accept that friend request, they're going to pitch, slap me. Now, maybe I'm right, maybe I am not, but this is what this current ecosystem of sales and connection has turned most people into. We want to genuinely connect with people and immediately when someone does connect with you, you're like what's going on here? What's the agenda? Sometimes, all we really want to do is make friends. It's tough enough making friends as an adult, so don't make it awkward by being a fucking social pariah, especially on social media. I would love to know what you think. How do you cultivate genuine connections with people? Do you have any sort of tried and true things that you do? Is it easy for you? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Come hang out in the Business Blast for Me community over on Facebook the link is in the show notes and let's talk about it. And who knows, maybe we'll become friends and I promise I won't pitch slap you. As always, my friends, you can have success without the BS and, honestly, the pitch slap is just a whole boatload of BS. I will talk to you soon. That's it for this week. Thanks for listening to the Business Blast for Me podcast. We'll be back next week with a new episode, but in the meantime, help us to stir out by subscribing and, if you're feeling extra sassy, rating this podcast. And don't forget to share the podcast with others. Head over to businessblastformepodcastcom to connect with us and learn more. Thanks for listening and remember you can have success without the BS.