How to be a party plan girl in a suit and tie world
Wow there are a lot of people here wearing ties. Am I the only one wearing flats? I probably should have put on some more jewelry. Or makeup. They sure do sound like they know what they are talking about. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe no one will talk to me if I sit over here and look at this menu for a long time…. “Hi! So what do you do?”
Are they talking to me? I don’t know what to say! Do I even KNOW what I do? What if they don’t like what I say? I don’t want to tell them I do…. Parties!
With a dry mouth and sweaty palms, you stumble out the words that you think everyone dreads hearing:
“I do parties.”
That’s it. I’m toast. They won’t want to talk to me anymore. I might as well leave now and abandon my half eaten $15 sandwich.
That was how my first ever networking meeting started. Or what I remember, anyways. Between all of the new people and realizing that I had NO idea how to explain what I did, it was a blur. I do remember thinking “maybe I should have been an insurance agent, because everyone understands what that is!
Thankfully I stuck with it, and ended up meeting a lot of great people at that meeting! I decided to go back next week, and the week after that… turns out, networking saved my party plan business. In 2015, 90% of my sales and sponsoring was a direct result of connections I made through networking (notice that I said connections… not the specific people I meet at the meetings). I truly believe that networking can be a very valuable tool if you own a Direct Sales party plan business, but there are a lot of ways you can network WRONG and it will hurt your business. I want other party plan girls to be SUCCESSFUL, so let’s learn from each other! Here are some tips and tricks I have learned along the way.
1. Be prepared BEFORE the meeting for the question “what do you do?”
And when I say be prepared, I mean it. You need to be comfortable and confident in who you are and what you do! Just having a “30 second commercial” or “elevator speech” written down isn’t good enough. If it is a three-line-run-on-sentence that takes forever to spit out, you are going to ditch it after the first time you say it. Why? Because it is scripted! Go for more of a “talking with a friend” type of answer. In fact, recruit your friends and family to randomly ask you “what do you do?” to help you practice. The more you practice answering this question ahead of time, the more comfortable and confident you will be when asked! If you need help sharing what you do, Kristin Barnes is an amazing resource!
2. Be confident.
Ladies, we hear this all of the time, but never enough. You ARE going to be different than a lot of the other business owners in the room, and that is ok! Wear an outfit that you love, put on your favorite shoes, and throw a pile of sharp new business cards in a “business” purse (you know the kind I mean… not a briefcase, not a purse… a purse big enough to hold what a briefcase would but still look fabulous!). Talk OUT LOUD in the car on your way to the meeting, practicing what you will say when you introduce yourself. Give yourself a pep talk in the car before you go into the meeting. Keep business cards in your hands to fidget with if you need to, but be ready to hand them out and shake hands. Order something yummy off the menu, but stay away from garlic, onions and obnoxiously large sandwiches that are impossible to eat gracefully. You can do it! YOU have something amazing to offer – share it proudly!
3. Ask questions
Ask ask ask. Ask the leader or the group for the top five people you should meet. Ask people what their favorite thing about the group is. Ask how long they have been attending. Ask them what their favorite thing on the menu is. Ask them about their dogs or cats or kids or car or vacation. People love to talk, so ask questions and listen! EVERY word doesn’t have to be about business, and really, it shouldn’t be. If every time you open your mouth you are talking about how great your product is and how it will solve all of the world’s problems, people will get tired of you talking REAL fast. So if you feel like you don’t have anything to say or don’t know anyone, just start asking questions. Just like you need to practice your “30 sec commercial” BEFORE the meeting, come prepared with an arsenal of questions to ask people.
4. Don’t sell.
Let me repeat that. DO NOT SELL. For two hours, just forget you even sell anything at all. Do not bring product with you to sell, do not say you have product to sell, do not say you are trying to sell enough to hit a certain goal. This goes for booking parties, too. The words “I am here to book 2 parties from the people in this room today!” should NEVER come out of your mouth. YOU are there to BUILD CONNECTIONS. Make it your goal to book at least two one on one appointments with people before you leave. I am even going to be bold and say that that should be your ONLY goal. Putting selling and booking out of your mind. That is not what networking is for.
5. Be a Giver
Read the book “The Go-Giver” with an open mind, and be prepared for it to change the way you look at business. Us Direct Sales folks can really get stuck inside our own bubbles – we think we have the best product, the best parties, the best business model, the best opportunity, the best benefits, the best everything. We think we are the best, and I am telling you right now that you have to bust that bubble. If you don’t if will hurt not only your own business, but others as well. Why? Because sister, you’re not the best. Your company is not the best. Sorry to sound harsh, but it’s true. Your product or opportunity maybe the best for SOMEONE, or even a lot of people, but not EVERYONE. The sooner you get out of your own head and start looking around you, you will open up your business to new opportunities, new resources, and new GROWTH! Be a giver. Look for ways to help OTHER people.
6. Be patient. And consistent.
Just like being confident, being patient is one of those things that we know we SHOULD be, but, have a hard time with. Since you are networking to build relationships and not to sell or book, it can take time to see a return on your investment. Unfortunately, party plan girls have a bad habit of going to a month or two of meetings (if that) and then giving up… which leaves the rest of the business owners a little suspicious of how committed we may be. I will NEVER forget when a very established networker told me, after I had been attending meetings for about 4 months “Elizabeth, I have been wanting to learn about your product, and I think my wife would really like it, but honestly, I wanted to see if you were going to stick around first. I wanted to see that you were committed to your business and committed to building relationships, not just looking for the next sale.” Wow! Business owners are watching to see if we are serious about what we do, and it can take time to build that trust. If you attend meetings week after week, consistently do one on ones, and have a go giver attitude, people will start to see that they can trust you!
So what if you are the “suit and tie” part of the equation? What can you do to support Party Plan business owners?
1. Don’t run away.
We won’t bite, and we won’t (hopefully!) try to get you to buy nail polish or a blinged out new purse. Chances are we just want to ask you what you do, too, and ask you whether we should get the chicken sandwich or the orchard salad. I’ve been in meetings where people seem to avoid me like I have a plague. If someone looks different, maybe it is because they ARE different… and maybe that means they have something different that can help you! Also, if someone is sitting along with their nose buried in a menu, chances are they are as nervous as heck and could really use a friendly face. Be that friendly face.
2. Take us seriously.
We want to be taken seriously. If we weren’t serious about our business, we wouldn’t be here networking! Just like you, we are here to play ball. Learn new things. Build connections. Do business! We don’t just network because we have too much time on our hands or because we like the restaurant.
3. Ask questions.
Don’t have a clue what a Home Party is? That’s ok! Ask! Don’t know what Direct Sales means? Ask! Don’t know how you can help us? Ask! Whether it is the product we sell or HOW we sell it, if you don’t know what we do, we are happy to answer those questions. Leave everything you think you know about Direct Sales at the door, because often times it is not what you think. There are a lot of misconceptions about the Direct Sales industry, and we are on a mission to bust them all down. We can provide valuable connections and solutions, too, if you take the time to ask questions and get to know us.
4. Think outside the box.
Sure, YOU may not need a new coordinating set of jewelry, and maybe your wife or friends don’t need any either, but what BUSINESSES owners might be a good connection? Who might be a great strategic partner for us? Sure, we have products to sell, but more importantly are CONNECTIONS. Just because we are in Direct Sales doesn’t mean that we don’t need a LOT of the things traditional business owners need…. Accountants, bankers, office supplies, gifts, transportation… you name it! Plus, if you take the time to get to know us, we might be able to send YOU business or valuable connections.
The bottom line, whether you do parties or wear a suit and tie every day, is that we are all different… but that’s ok! What unites us is stronger than what separates us. We all have common goals – to take care of our families, make our communities a better place, share what we love with the world – so let’s all work together to help make that happen. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by someone who has a different business model; step outside your comfort zone and see what amazing things can happen when people join forces.
So, are you a “party plan girl?” My challenge is to go give networking a try, and discover some of the amazing business resources there outside of your own company.
If you are a “suit and tie,” my challenge to you is to find the business owner that seems as DIFFERENT from you as possible, and get to know them! Maybe I sound crazy, but I promise, you will learn something new and be a better business owner because of it.
Now go out there and make some new friends, folks!