Networking is a word that means many things to many people. At one end of the scale its a nerve racking experience that you make yourself do, for others its an opportunity and a fun way to meet new potential contacts and business partners.
The truth is that most of us go out to network in one way or another, by very few do it well. This is often due to a number of things, including combination of lack of skills, insufficient practice and lack of planning.
Networking is not something that many people are good at naturally. It takes time and effort to become a good networker, and along the way we frequently make a few basic mistakes.
Here is my list of the top 5 things to avoid when trying to build up your network:
Networking events are not an opportunity to sell. They are however, an opportunity to meet and get to know new people and start to build and re-establish relationships.
Don’t try to get too much out of the event. This is the start of the knowing, liking and trusting process. The start only, and not the time or place to sell. No one buys at initial meeting like this. You wouldn’t, so why expect others to?
2. Elevator pitching
Bombarding the person you have just met with information about your product, service or company is a real no no. You might love what you do and the business you own or work for, but please don’t assume that everyone else will too.
Although very popular since the 1990s dot-com boom, elevator pitching really does nothing more than bore the person you have just met into glazing over and looking for someone else to meet.
Start with asking about the other person about themselves, and their business. Find out about them and look for common reasons to start a relationship. Focus on them, not on you.
3. Giving out your cards like candy
The real key to successful networking, is meeting the right people and exchanging contact details, with a planned follow up. Handing your card out to as many people as you can, or collecting names and cards is simply a waste of your time, and of paper.
You must try to select the people (or types of people) that you want to meet, introduce yourself and start by giving. The best way to start a business relationship is to look to find people that you can help and give to them.
Clearly, we network because we want to get something. Your goal needs to be to connect, and focus on what you can provide. The sales and referrals will come later as a result.
4. Failing to follow up
In my mind this is business sin number one.
Not following up with the relevant people that you meet is really wasteful. You are looking to build a relationship here, and establish a long term connection. You want to cement yourself in the minds of those that you want to get know and grow to trust.
A simple follow up message saying how nice it was to meet someone, along with regular personal contact makes all the difference, and places you head and shoulders above those who simply send a linked in request, or indeed do nothing.
Similarly, not doing what you say you will do, is equally bad.
Once you have established a connection, and agreed to follow up, you simply must do it. If you promise to get in touch with someone, call or send them something, not doing so is not only bad business, but is nothing short of rude.
Do what you say you will. If you are not interested in following through with a new contact, then don’t organise to do so in the first place.
5. Not conveying what it is that you do
When asked what they do, most people answer with their job title or what they are, e.g. “I’m an Employment Lawyer”, “I’m Marketing Director for XYZ Co”, “I’m a Recruiter”.
Not only does this allow the other person’s stereotypes to come into play, but it doesn’t teach that person how you can help them, or who they can refer to you. You need to establish a way of communicating what it is that you do in a simple way that the other person can really understand. What it is you really do, and how and when you help people.
This takes more thought and effort than you might initially imagine, but get it right and the benefits are amazing.
For more on developing yourself, your staff and improving the profitability of your business, please do get in touch. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, use the contact page on my website www.jamesnathan.com or call me on 07736 831151. Follow me on Twitter at @jamesnathanxp, connect to me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Facebook.
I look forward to being in touch.