Building Confidence in Networking (Again)

The start of #HashtagHustler in August 2013, at SXSW V2V
The start of #HashtagHustler in August 2013, at SXSW V2V

Starting this month, I’m getting back into the networking game.

I realized last weekend (while planning out networking events to attend for this month and June), that in general, I hadn’t been as social the past couple of years. I had written about this in a previous blog post thinking that I had actually just burnt myself out in mid-2013 from committing to too many events.

I realize now that that was only part of the story.

In mid-2013, I closed down my first business, TAOpivot. During that summer, I was in flux about what my purpose in my life, my career was. Although I hit up the first annual SXSW V2V anyway, I realized that I no longer had much to talk about in terms of what I did for work. I was embarrassed.

And even though I started my second business (Ms. Kwong’s Baked Goods) shortly thereafter, I still didn’t feel like this was in alignment with what I wanted my career to look like. Don’t get me wrong: I loved baking, but it didn’t feel right for me in terms of a long-lasting career.

Therefore, I avoided social or networking events in the Denver area. I was uninterested in doing a 30-second pitch on what my business was about, because I knew I didn’t have the passion for it. So instead of fumbling along with the facade, I just opted out of attending many events. Hence, my absence in the Denver business and startup communities.

Since Hashtag Hustler has been officially established at the beginning of 2015 (I say that HH actually began in mid-2013 as well, but I didn’t have the full-fledged business concept fleshed out until this year), I have felt more encouraged to attend more events in town, to spread the word about my new, better-aligned business. Because I haven’t been so active in the business community the past two years, of course people don’t quite know me nor HH yet.

Luckily, my confidence is building back up from rock-bottom: I am ready to show Denver (and the world!) that Helene and Hashtag Hustler are ready to get back into the groove and build up business relationships again.

Are You a Sensitive Salesperson?

Reach those sales goals, but do it with honesty and sensitivity. Image courtesy of renjith krishnan from freedigitalphotos.net
Reach those sales goals, but do it with honesty and sensitivity. Image courtesy of renjith krishnan from freedigitalphotos.net

Over the past week, I’ve been working hard on getting the word out about my new client’s event in San Francisco. I’ve reached out to several connections I still have in San Francisco, telling them about the event with an email that’s 80% form, 20% customized.

I received a couple pieces of feedback about my email, and both of them were, well, honest but also leaning towards negative. I took the feedback to heart and today, went about emailing everyone with apologies for my spam-like message. Most everyone replied telling me that I was fine, that my message wasn’t annoying/spammy, and that I was just doing my job.

I probably didn’t have to even apologize, but it hung heavy on my conscience: I never want people to think that I’m a blood-sucking salesperson. Ok, not to offend any truly great salespeople, but I cannot be emotionless or separate my personal feelings from business objectives when it comes to sales: I value honesty a lot and really, I am just a sensitive person in general. Yes, I may be a bit of a people-pleaser, but I do care about others a lot…maybe to a fault.

In reply to one of the emails above, I said that perhaps it’s a fault of mine to be a sensitive salesperson…but then I thought about it and realized that it can be considered a strength for me instead. If others know me as a sensitive, honest salesperson for my business and for my clients, they will know that I am more driven with genuine emotion than just winning the next sale.

I’m not saying that focusing on solely winning a sale is a bad thing; I’m just saying that it helps to have a bit of emotion when it comes to selling. So tell me, do you consider yourself a sensitive salesperson?

Business Cards & Mailing Lists

Just because someone gives you a business card does not mean they want to be on your mailing list. Image courtesy of savit keawtavee from freedigitalphotos.net
Just because someone gives you a business card does not mean they want to be on your mailing list. Image courtesy of savit keawtavee from freedigitalphotos.net

There have been instances in the past week where I received an email newsletter and wondered, “How in the–when did I even sign up for this?” Just yesterday, a Twitter friend also complained about this:

Why is it I am receiving newsletters I never signed up for? …And how in the world did this get perceived as an effective marketing ploy?!

I thought back to how I ended up on the mailing list and realized something that peeved me: I exchanged business cards with these people at networking events before, and they went ahead and added me to their mailing list without my consent.

Exactly when did this become acceptable? When did it become acceptable to assume that exchanging business cards equals a YES to joining your mailing list? This is just poor practice and unethical, if not outright illegal.

From the many networking events/conferences I have attended over the past several years, I can see how some of these connections, these businesses, collect & build their mailing list:

  1. Giveaways/freebies – Enter to win a new iPad: drop your card here! Seems harmless and easy enough for people interested in winning the iPad/what-have-you, right? Still, I think it’d be best if these businesses would put a disclaimer below, saying that even if you don’t win, you’ll be added to their mailing list. Most businesses don’t do this though, which highly irks me. It’s better to make a separate mailing list of people interested in winning your prize and ONLY contacting them regarding the contest results; after that, ask for permission to add others to your main mailing list and then delete the contest mailing list.
  2. Good ol’ networking – I enjoy networking in the sense of connecting with others over like-minded ideas. However, when I give someone my business card, I expect/desire one-on-one follow-up, NOT getting added to a mailing list right away. If you want to add your new connections to your mailing list, flat-out ASK the connections for consent. Recently, I asked my fellow leads group colleagues if it was ok for me to add them to my Hashtag Hustler mailing list: I only received a few responses, but that’s better than adding everyone without asking.

I’m sure there are other ways businesses can collect email addresses in-person, but these two are the most common ways I have observed. As you can see, it all boils down to ASKING FIRST. You know how the saying goes about assumptions: never ever assume that because you’ve connected with someone that they’re interested in being a part of your mailing list. People are increasingly guarded about their email inbox, so don’t become part of the problem: you may be moved to spam and blacklisted as a contact, which will do you no good.

Pet Peeve: Lack of Follow-Through

Seriously, people. FOLLOW THROUGH. Image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net
Seriously, people. FOLLOW THROUGH. Image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

This example is in no reference to my previous post regarding the potential connections I made between colleagues; this incident happened several months ago.

An acquaintance had posted on Twitter asking for financial advising, and I was happy to refer her to someone in my leads group at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. However, once I made the introduction, my leads group colleague reached out to her and she never replied.

I find it highly unprofessional and just plain rude when people don’t follow through, ESPECIALLY when they are the ones asking for the help/assistance. Why even ask your network for resources when you’re not going to follow through? Do the work yourself after that; you’re on your own.

Of course, I feel that all of us (to some degree) are guilty of this; hell, there have been several incidents in the past year where I know I dropped the ball on some people.

Still, it’s a pet peeve to me and make me not want to make introductions sometimes.

Always Connecting Others

I love to connect others together! Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut from freedigitaphotos.net
I love to connect others together! Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut from freedigitaphotos.net

Today I’ve spent aspects of my workday connecting friends and colleagues: a few colleagues I’d met at previous conferences over the past two years are in Barcelona right now for the Mobile World Congress and I had noticed them using the hashtag #mwc15. I figured, Why not connect them all? As I write this, hoping at least a couple of them will be able to meet! How cool would that be?

Also introduced two friends to one another in Boston: one works in Boston but commutes from Maine, and the other lives and works in Boston. Hoping that they will be able to connect IRL and that one will be able to help the other find good housing in the Boston area!

I should mention, all of this connecting/networking has been via Twitter, which I sincerely LOVE for doing stuff like this! Twitter has been my forte since probably 2010/2011, when the platform really started to gain critical mass. Somehow, I thrive off of hashtags and connecting others, even if I can’t physically be there to make the connections myself.

It’s a natural gift that’s only come out since I moved to Denver; I really am grateful for this skill, though, and hope I can continue to use it throughout my years.