As you seek to grow your business you will have of opportunities to network, and I’m sure many of you already actively attend networking events as part of your sales and marketing strategy. If you do, then I hope it is bringing you rich rewards and a steady flow of new business leads.
Sadly however, for many business owners I speak to this is not the case. They don’t really understand how to leverage networking to its full potential and really use it to generate more leads and more revenue for their business. So here are 5 of the biggest makes most people make when networking and what to do instead to ensure you get the best results from your efforts…
Mistake #1 – Throwing up on the people you’re speaking to: No I don’t mean literally, but one of the biggest mistakes people make networking is getting in their sales pitch. Which on the receiving end is like being vomited over. I’m sure you’ve probably been in the receiving end of this yourself thinking ‘who is this person?’ no doubt quickly followed by something along the lines of ‘get me out of here’ or ‘how can I escape?’
Tip – Remember that networking is for the most part a long-term sales and marketing strategy and your focus should be on building
relationships, not selling. You can’t go too far wrong if you follow the Meet, Like, Know and Trust formula.
Mistake # 2 – Talking too much about yourself: This is related to Mistake #1 but is slightly different. Always remember ‘people don’t care who you are or what you know, until they know how much you care’ as a mantra and you won’t go far wrong. Once you’re in conversation and you’ve avoided Mistake #1 and not vomited your sales pitch all over them, don’t fall into the trap of telling them everything about yourself or your business either.
Tip – The main aim of your first conversation is to find out about the other person and see if you share any common interests or there are any business synergies between you. You want to find out enough about them to know if there’s potential value in having a second, more in depth discussion to really find out/if how you can help each other and whether it’s worth building a ongoing relationship with this person. You can only do this if you’re skilled at asking questions and listening. Remember… you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in that proportion and focus on asking open questions such as What, How, Who etc.
Mistake #3 – Quantity over Quality: This is a mistake I see time and time again. People dashing round the room handing out and collecting as many business cards as possible as if there is a prize for the person who has the most cards. Wrong! The prize goes to the person who has the most relevant and genuine contacts – and you can only do that by following Tips 1 & 2 above.
Tip – Focus on talking to people who you have a synergy with – there needs to be some kind of commonality to begin building a relationship with. That can be similar personalities, similar interests, common business interests… there’s no rule, but their needs to be something. If after 5 mins or so you’re not feeling it then politely move on. After all, your there for business and your time is limited. So avoid
being a business card collecting junkie, and at the same time don’t waste time either – your goal is quality contacts.
Mistake #4 – Letting the Other Person Control the Conversation: This can be a bit trickier to avoid without being rude and needs some skill. Many people don’t really understand how to network effectively so it’s best not to let them lead the conversation. Otherwise the danger is that it will just end up being a polite, social chat.
Tip – Once you’ve struck up an initial rapport, show some initiative and subtly steer the conversation by asking some probing questions and being gently directive. Especially in follow-up meetings. Ask probing questions to find out more about the person and their business and ascertain where the potential value lays in building a networking relationship
Mistake #5 – Failing to Follow Up: This is the biggest mistake of all! And the one most commonly made. The follow up with where the money is, where the gold is to be mined. Many people collect lots of cards, attend lots of meetings/events, speak to lots of people, but never really follow-up properly. If you’re doing this, and I think it’s quite likely that you are, then you are wasting your time and money networking.
Tip – Follow up, Follow up, Follow up! This is the key to growing a successful, profitable network, that generate genuine leads and revenue flow. Ultimately there are two types of networking – networking that gets you contacts/pals, and networking that also does that and also makes you money. Which in my view is the difference between networking socially and networking for business. To have your networking efforts lead to more revenue and more profit then you must follow up and to build quality relationships that have genuine synergy and trust. Have a plan for following up, and growing your network into a group of trusted advocated and you will not only have some great contacts and relationships, but you’ll generate a lot more new business and make more money too!
So get out there during the show and network like a Pro! Show up as your best and brightest self, follow the guidelines above, be genuinely interested in the people you meet and how you can help them, and you’re bound to meet some great people and who knows where that might take you and your business…