I recently read an interesting article on the difference between the way men network compared to women. The men, the article stated, were direct, to the point, quick to share their accomplishments, and equally quick to close the sale. Whereas women shared experiences, stories and eventually got around to talking about their business. Building the relationship was key for them, while the business pitch, if there even was one, was secondary.
I often find that women who network like men don't last too long in our group. Their aggressive overtures scare people off. It has to be more than what I call the "business card shuffle."
I remember when I worked in social services and would attend networking events, as soon as I said what I did, there was this glazed look and I could sense that the person I was talking to was glancing over my shoulder to find his/her next target. When I started Company of Women, I vowed our group would not be like that.
The writer of the article was also fascinated at what women shared on a personal level at these first encounters. Men would likely be quite horrified at what women tell their girlfriends. Nothing is off limits, guys.
It seems to me that something in between would work best. Yes, it is important to get to know the person and build that relationship, but closing the deal is pretty vital too if you want to be successful in business.
Women are more patient and are prepared to wait before finalizing the sale, which men would likely argue is not time efficient. But if in the long term it nets the same result, who is to quibble over the strategy to getting there? Since relationships tend to be all-important to us, you can end up with a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your client. Or you may not "sell" anything at all, but now have a fan who will speak highly of you and your business. None of it is wasted time.
As for tooting our own horns, that is something that women find most difficult and need to work on. I remember one speaker we had recommended that we have success stories to share in our back pockets when someone asks how business is, so that instead of saying the standard "Busy, busy, busy," we actually give concrete examples of what we have achieved for our clients. Showcasing our successes may not come naturally to us, but can be a way to impress a potential customer when it is done subtly.
I am often asked about why I don't use male speakers and men are generally not included in our events. I prefer to use female speakers because they serve as role models to the women in the audience, demonstrating that women have expertise, too. The group dynamic does change when men are present. Women won't ask those silly questions, while others feel compelled to flirt and turn up their feminine wiles instead of focusing on the topic and networking with the other women present. Plus men already have their old boys' network. We want our own space -- physically and literally.
Author John Grey is quick to point out the communication differences between the sexes and clearly it is no different in business; men are still from Mars and women from Venus, and occasionally our planets do collide, but maybe if we studied each other's language, we might be further ahead.