Networking Tips: You Can't Serve Everyone
I was at a recent networking event and was struck by the number of attendees who said that they can serve or help “everyone.” If you are doing this, please stop. Here's why.
Why You Can't Serve Everyone
If you say you can help everyone, you must believe that “everyone” in the world has the same qualifications, characteristics, needs, and wants. I don’t even have to explain that that’s impossible. You know it’s impossible. What you’re trying to do is homogenize the world in the hope of making sales.
Let’s look at an example of a common business represented at small business networking events: skin care. “I can help anyone with skin.” Oh my! That’s over 7 billion people worldwide and could include most animals. Sure, your product might help a large swath of the population, but it is unlikely to help everyone. Skincare options can vary widely by ethnicity, climate, health condition, allergies, age, gender, diet, budget, activity level... the list is almost endless.
Chances are, too, that you personally don’t really want to help everyone, and may not be capable of doing so due to lack of experience or ability. You’re not a bad person if you aren’t able or don’t want to work with everyone. There are just some groups of people with whom you have a level of simpatico or understanding, and others you don’t.
While the entire population may have some universal trait, the types of customers you and your product or service can help will be limited. This goes for whatever product or service you offer.
More Reasons Why This Happens
After observing the “everyone” sellers over many years of networking, I’ve identified some of the primary reasons why they slip into this ineffective behavior.
Some small business newbies are so anxious to be working for themselves, that they try to reassure themselves that sales will come because “everyone” is a prospect for whatever they sell.
Sellers of Ice to Eskimos
The proverbial sales stereotype of someone who can sell ice to Eskimos bet that their stellar sales skills will help them sell to everyone and anyone, regardless of whether it’s a good fit for the customer. These pushy, manipulative sellers have no understanding of their customers or markets.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs who are failing to attract enough sales will often stray away from their ideal customer profile just to stay in business. They either haven’t figured out how to sell to their target demographic, or have failed to recognize and respond to changes in their markets.
Some small businesses, possibly due to any of the above situations, don’t realize that they don’t have the ability to serve everyone. They may overestimate their ability and capability to be flexible to serve so many. Even the largest of corporations can’t and don’t serve everyone. And the ones who do serve large segments of the population are also massive organizations with deep resources and staffing.
At the root of this problem is that many small businesses and entrepreneurs are not self-aware. They don’t really know who they are and who they can serve, and may reinvent themselves with every sale that comes their way. Then they get burned out and go out of business.
Your Network Can’t Identify Who You Help
When you don’t know how to identify who you really help, you don’t help your network identify sales opportunities for you either. When you say “everyone,” you are telling your network to always be on the lookout for opportunities for you. That’s exhausting, and chances are they’ve got more on their minds than helping you and your business.
But I did hear someone make a great introduction for her “everyone” type travel business. This representative introduced herself as a specialist in travel for families who were facing a very specific health challenge for their children or other family members. Sure, she could help everyone. But with that more narrow definition, I can now more easily be on the lookout for people I can refer to her.
Questions to Determine Who You Really Can Serve
Following are some questions that you must be brutally honest in answering if you want to focus your networking and sales efforts.
- Who do you want to help? Why do these people appeal to you? And would you appeal to them? Why or why not?
- Who are you most capable of serving with what you offer? What experience or abilities qualify you to do so? Would those people agree?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2019 Heidi Thorne