I recently watched a friend of mine fail at a public cocktail event that had a lot of prospect business in attendance. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was then that I realized, my friend wasn't trying to be bad at networking. She just wasn't a naturally social person and no one had ever taught her how to mix business in a social setting. So, if you can related to my friend- then keep reading. These 5 networking sins are noted to help you learn, grow, and then become a master at networking.
1. It’s all about you….. Well, it’s not. People love to talk about themselves,so let them. I’ve learned to go to these types of events and ask anyone I wanted to meet a simple question… “So, what do you do?” And they’re off. Listening to someone else talk… and I mean really being engaged… will make them like you. They will say they had a great conversation with you— even if it is one-sided. So, instead of pitching yourself, let others pitch you.
2. No follow up. If you leave the event with business cards and wait for the phone to ring, you’re committing a “sin.” Go through the cards and enter them into your mailing list. Then call- yes use the phone, don’t send an email- the contacts you believe can bump up your business and invite the person out for coffee on your tab. Don’t pitch at the coffee meeting either. Instead talk to the person about what they do some more and learn where they can use help.
3. Not offering value. Once you have that coffee meeting and you discover how your potential referral contact can use help, find a way to provide it. Solve their problem for them- no charge- and without pitching yourself. Pretend that you have it all handled and clients are coming through the door. The contact won’t forget this move and YOU will be their number 1 priority when it comes to referring business.
4. Don’t think you’ve failed if none of this works. There are selfish and bad people out there. The system noted above works 95% of the time. Your first time out (maybe first 3 times out) may fall within the other 5%. Keep trying…
5. Stop going to every networking event. You should be selecting your networking events carefully and not by open bar status or what’s on the menu either! If you know a networking event is going to be filled with pediatricians… pass. They may not help your market. If you know an event is going to be filled with people within your industry… go and practice steps 1-4. If you know an event is going to be a mix of professionals you may, one day, sell your services to then go and practice steps 1-4. You may get referral or direct business off of it. Protect your time by picking events that (long-term) can provide you with real ROI. Don’t just network for the sake of meeting people. After all, the goal is to establish your brand and bring in money.
Twyla N. Garrett of IME