Social networking is that common technique that so many of us use at dinner parties, neighborhood bake sales and garage sales, local baseball games, and in other social places where we use a perfectly casual, innocent, non-business related event in the hopes of making a sale or two.

Now this is not at all to say that you should bring a PowerPoint® presentation and a laser pointer to every t-ball game you attend. What it does mean is that you should not exclude all situations just because they are considered social, and not business events.

The trick is to know when it is appropriate to make a little pitch, and to know how to do it so that it doesn’t feel as though you’re aggressively marketing products to everyone around you.

Simply make sure that you have business cards with you no matter where you go, and listen carefully to what people around you are saying. Suppose you’re at a dinner party, and someone mentions that they are having trouble with, or are in need of something offered by your business. In this case, it is considered perfectly acceptable to jump in to the conversation and briefly – that is, very briefly at first – mention what solution you could offer to this problem.

If the person seems interested, feel free to speak further about it. However, don’t go for a hard sell in a situation like this. When you are at a social event, there is nothing more unappealing than having a product you don’t want jammed down your throat.

Similarly, you should be careful about the times when you choose to talk about your product or service. Don’t just start offering it out of the blue without a segue in the conversation. It will feel as though the social event has become a television sitcom that has just gone into commercial break.

If it doesn’t look like there is anybody who is interested, and you’d really like to practice your skills, try mingling. Meet somebody you don’t really know at the event or occasion, and introduce yourself. When you get to the “what do you do” question, feel free to state your position in the company, and then expand on the product or services that are offered in an attempt to explain what you do. This is very effective in peaking people’s interest about a product or service.

Again, the key is not to ever use a social event as a time for a hard sell. Instead, you should keep you eyes and ears open for someone who may in fact be looking for you.

Mark.