The Difference Between Hard Selling and Networking

For many people the word “networking” has a negative connotation. This is in part due to the fact that many salesmen abuse networking to push their products or services. So let’s take a deeper look into the difference between (hard) selling and networking to solve some of the misunderstandings about networking.

The main difference between selling and networking is that in a sales process the goal of the interaction between two people is the sale of a product or service. When networking, this sale could be the consequence of a contact that is built with respect and care. So it is clear that the sale is not the goal of networking, but a nice and in many cases a logical consequence.

The comparison below goes into the details of the difference between selling and networking. The table shows several elements of “negative networking” by hard sellers on the one hand and “real networking” on the other hand. Hard sellers who network are focused on the short term while real networkers focus on the long term.

  1. Hard sellers who network are focused on the short term while real networkers focus on the long term.
  2. Hard sellers who network try to detect a need that can be satisfied by their product or service. Real networkers share any information that can be interesting for the other party.
  3. Hard sellers only give when they have an immediate profit. Real networkers give without expecting something back (and in the long run this usually pays off better too).
  4. Hard sellers who network listen in order to get the deal. Real networkers listen to help.
  5. Hard sellers ask questions in order to be able to position their product or service better. Real networkers ask questions to be able to be of better assistance.
  6. Hard sellers find people interesting only if they are a potential customer. Real networkers find everybody interesting as a contact. You never know what or who they know.
  7. Hard sellers who network want to collect and distribute as many business cards as possible. Real networkers ask and give business cards to people with whom they really established contact.
  8. Hard sellers talk often only about their product or service without listening to others. Real networkers See to it that others always talk more than they do, listen carefully to them and encourage them to tell more.
  9. Hard sellers who network try to bring the attention to their own product or service. Real networkers recommend products or services of people in their network (and only if they are relevant for the people they talk to).
  10. For hard sellers who network the goal is the sale. People are a means, a resource (sometimes even a necessary evil) to reach that goal. For real networkers the goal is to establish and maintain contacts and build relationships. One of the possible consequences is a sale.

To make it even more clear, I have a small example for you.

Situation: a salesman of fire extinguishers meets the manager of a local affiliate of a bank at a reception of the Chamber of Commerce.

Hard Selling

The salesman does his sales magic to convince the manager to buy fire extinguishers for his office. He is a good salesman and he manages to sell 5 fire extinguishers.

The evening of the salesman is a success.


The salesman is interested in the manager as a person. Amongst other things he learns that the manager is a passionate sailor and that he is looking for a new boat. The salesman remembers that a friend of his has a boat for sale. He not only passes this on to the manager, but also provides them with each other’s contact details the following day. A week later the boat has a new owner.

Four months later the salesman receives a phone call from the manager. The manager asks him to deliver new fire extinguishers for the office and for the facilities of the sailing club where the manager recently became chairman. Moreover the manager proposes to write a letter to all the members of the sailing club with a recommendation for the fire extinguishers of the salesman.

The year of the salesman is a success.

What about you? Are you more of a hard seller than a networker? You don’t have to be a salesperson to be a seller. Everybody has to sell continuously. You have to “sell” the next project to your management team, you have to “sell” to your partner to go to the movies instead of spending an evening at home, you have to “sell” to your children that they keep their room clean, … Everybody is a seller in one way or the other.

Let me repeat my question. What about you? Are you more a hard seller or more a networker?

Jan Vermeiren

These is an excerpt from the boek “Let’s Connect A Practical Guide for Highly Effective Professional Networking”.

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About Carol Ferrier
Having spent many years as a stay at home mother, it was quite a difficult decision to have to take a job to make ends meet when my sons were in junior high and high school. I had prided myself on carefully using our families’ financial resources to ensure they stretched as far a possible but even that was not enough. (To console myself I told myself it wasn’t so bad and that they didn’t need me as they did when they were younger.) It was frustrating to have my boss schedule me week after week to work during the only time my family had free time. Even after being promoted to management, instead of having more time I had even less to spend with those I loved the most. Looking for a way to be at home and also help with our finances led me to look at something quite new to me as an option…Network Marketing. We jumped in enthusiastically working, and just as our partners promised our check grew to a significant amount. It was a wonderful experience to finally get paid on our efforts and not on the fixed income a boss determined. Along the way we also learned that it made a difference which company you partnered with, whether the leadership of the company had vision, ethics and a determination to keep the companies distributors interests at heart. Today we have a 5 figure a month income that is steadily growing and we have been able to move into the home we only a few short years ago only dreamed about. Working from home together allows us the time to travel, work and play together. Today it is such a joy to help others develop their own flourishing home business, in the hopes that they can stay home with their family if they so desire. Because of this amazing industry we have been able to take fabulous trips around the world, experiencing amazing moments together. A special tradition we have had over the past 7 years is being able to take our trip to Hawaii yearly with our grandson. It was another magical time, together on the beach, snorkeling, luaus and rich cultural experiences. What fun we had!! Thinking back on the many years I put in for past bosses I get so much satisfaction now because I am able to spend my time building our dreams as we gather together with dear friends and business associates… how wonderful to be able to work and play with those we call our business partners and friends.

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