Has any of this ever happened to you? You go to a networking event only to be hounded (yes, hounded) by someone dead set on telling you all about their business. Or you make an appointment with a networking contact, confirm the day before and they never show up and even worse, there are no apologies or even explanations forthcoming? How about the time someone turned their back on you when they learned that you were a solopreneur?
Many of us have had these types of experiences, and we know how it feels. And while we don’t understand how people can sink to these networking depths, we rarely look closely at our own networking etiquette and ask ourselves, “how am I doing?”
With the firm belief that you want to do it right, here are some basic networking mistakes that should be avoided at all costs unless you want to be considered a pariah in the networking world:
Networking meetings and events are not for selling.
Selling is an intricate dance during which you gain trust and rapport and earn the right to present your product or service to someone that is potentially interested in your offer. People attend networking events and they have their own agenda and it definitely doesn’t include “listen to a sales pitch” at the top of the list. A networking event offers an opportunity to shake hands, start the conversation, exchange some basic facts and pleasantries, and then it is time to move on with the mutual understanding that you will chat again for a more in-depth exploration if, in fact, there is mutual interest, want or need.
Follow-up is the key.
I really can’t say it more explicitly than this: if you’re not going to be attentive to your follow-ups and touch point management you shouldn’t waste your time networking in the first place. Networking is one step in the sales process. Rarely, if ever, is the deal signed as a result of one chance encounter at a networking event. Follow-up is required! And remember that although not everyone can be your client, networking also presents you with many amazing referral sources. Take the time to find out what gold may lurk in that pile of cards you collected.
Don’t be rude.
Just because you don’t perceive that the person with whom you are speaking is your next best contact doesn’t mean that you should be abrupt or rude. There are simple ways to disengage from conversations without being impolite. For instance:
• It’s been good chatting with you but I need to make a very important call. Will you excuse me?
• Great chatting and I know you don’t want me to monopolize your time at such a crowded event. Thanks for letting me know about your business.
• I’m going to get a drink (food). Thanks for chatting with me.
• I make it a rule to meet at least 10 people at every networking event I attend. What about you?
The point is to be polite and to not make the other person feel as if they are not worthy of your time and conversation. Be sensitive to your tone of voice and manner so that you don’t leave them thinking you’re a networking a_ _>
Quantify just how much time you spend networking. For most of us it equates to many hours per week and with that being the case you certainly want to do it well. Take steps to establish a good reputation and reap the rewards of this powerful business development tool.