Do you make these 6 networking mistakes?
By Michael Goldberg
Knock Out Networking
To ensure you don’t make the connection. To ensure you get no value from the conversation. To ensure you never build the relationship. To ensure you don’t get more comfortable in your own skin. To ensure you don’t get better at networking. To ensure your efforts are a waste of time. To ensure you don’t get a referral. To ensure you don’t learn something. To ensure prompt service. (Kidding.)
Here’s an insurance policy: Don’t make these six networking mistakes and ensure you grow your business, practice, agency, branch, or complex.
1. Handing out a business card for no reason
Ever do that? Has anyone done that to you? Handed you a business card as part of their introduction? Or because they simply don’t know what else to do? Have you ever gone home after an event and discovered business cards that you don’t even remember receiving?
Always have a good reason to collect, ask for, or exchange business cards — to send information, to make an introduction, to follow up for a future meeting, or to be added to a mailing list (only if requested).
2. Not being likable
It’s never good form to complain about the economy, a tough year, your clients, politics, the system, or pretty much anything else. If you must talk about something negative then discuss the positive steps you’re taking to adapt, overcome, improvise, or whatever. Also, bragging about your success, smarts, and good looks doesn't bode well, either.
Be likable! How? Be humble about your success and excited about the success of others. Ask great questions of those you meet and be interested in what they have to say. If you are interested, you will appear more interesting. Make most conversations about the other person. If they’re likable, they will do the same.
3. Going to the wrong event
If possible, do your homework before showing up to an event. Going to the wrong types of events is a waste of time and money, and can be discouraging. If you know your purpose in attending an event, it will put the event itself in perspective.
I attended a networking event last night that was started by a friend from a client firm. Although the event didn't focus on my target marketplace (financial services), I attended to see friends and reconnect with people. I was also there to support a newcomer. Business was not my primary focus — if it was, it may have not been the right event. If you know your purpose, you’ll have a better understanding of where to go, what to say, and to whom. 4. Being in sales mode
Keep in mind that those you meet at mixers, networking groups, clubs, golf outings, cocktail parties, etc. are not your prospects, so you shouldn't be looking to sell them anything. The only thing you should be selling is the relationship. If you can develop a great relationship over time, then you can refer business to each other — and that’s what networking is all about! If they become a prospect or client, that's a bonus.
5. Being unprepared
Do you know how many attendees will be at the event? What are some of their professions? What are they looking for? How long has the group been established? How many members, visitors, guests? Who is the coordinator of the event? Are you interested in membership? If so, why? If not, why not? Who do you know and who do you want to know? What will you say as you introduce yourself to others? What will you say when they approach you? How will you interact? What will you do to have great conversations? Follow up? Stay in touch?
In essence, what will you do to prepare yourself with answers to all of these questions?
6. Lacking focus
One of the most common mistakes I see with financial advisors, business owners and sales producers is a lack of focus. The more focused you are with your networking, the more effective you will be. Most people I meet at events are looking to meet small business owners. But what does that mean? Try to be more specific. What type of small businesses? Revenues? Size of staff? What industry, profession, market segment, niche, demographic, geography, dynamic, etc.?
If you’re focused on the same small businesses as everyone else, it’s much more difficult to be remembered and referred.
The next time you’re shadow boxing in the mirror, ask yourself if you make any of these mistakes and what you can do to correct them. Then go to your next event, client meeting, or sales appointment and practice. Simple as that!
Just don’t forget to mention your good looks.