Women Mean Biz

The 5 biggest mistakes people make networking

by Philippa Constable on 4th Dec 2012


Business networking has become an essential activity for micro, small  and  medium sized companies, entrepreneurs, and even the larger corporates are sending out their sales and marketing senior staff to ‘network’.   Now, I meet a lot of people networking as I run a networking organisation, so I see all the time the biggest mistakes that people make . 

Now, the truth is, most people don’t realise or understand what networking is all about, and so without meaning to, they make some basic mistakes.   

Here’s what NOT to do when you network:

  1. SELL –  Now, let’s get this straight.  Networking is not a place to come and ‘sell’ yourself or your business and go back to the office and report on how many good leads you got and what possible business you will get as a result.    No, no, no!     

    Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do business with someone if they have a problem that you help them solve with offering your products or services, what I am saying is you need to understand the basic principles of building relationships for the future.   There is a process that needs to take place and the networking event is your starting point for making initial contact with other business owners,  get to know them, like and trust them and this doesn’t happen overnight.   It takes time!
  2. BE SELFISH – It’s not all about YOU!  Some of the best networkers I know, who truly understand the bigger picture, will be talking with people in the room, they will be interested in and curious about what others do, they will be asking all the questions and will be great match makers.  These people connect people with other people with ideas.  They are problem solvers and want to get to the pain and help you to solve whatever you current issues are in your business.  Now, these people are often remembered for the unselfish way they have acted and guess what, they then attract business without trying very hard.  

    So stop being selfish and put the needs of others first and think to yourself when you walk into that room “Who can I help today?”.  If you care about others first, then, they will be truly  grateful and will be caring back and you will reap the rewards.
  3. ARRIVE LATE OR LEAVE EARLY – Quite frankly, unless you were stuck in the traffic jam from hell, then this is not acceptable and just plain rude!  If you had a meeting with your best client, would you rock up late?  No is the answer so how do you know that your future best client isn’t in the room that day you turn up for a networking event?  Or that someone in the room has a contact who might transform your business?  What will their impressions be of you, if you walk in after the networking meeting has started?  Sloppy, bad time keeping, a sense that you are cocky perhaps and can just do what you want?  Be organised, be early, and be on your best behaviour because others will be judging you.
  4. BE UNPREPARED  – When someone asks you ‘What do you do?’ – you need to be able to make a positive and memorable impression.  So by answering, ‘I’m an accountant’ or ‘I’m a Director at ABC Ltd’ isn’t going to really do the job.  You need to work on communicating what you do in an engaging and simple way so that the other person/s can really see what value you provide the clients you work with.  This takes some thinking and effort on your part initially, but if you get it right, you will find that people will respond and will be able to assist you more easily.    You also need to work on tone and speak with passion ... as your energy and enthusiasm for your business will then be more infectious.
  5. FAILING TO FOLLOW UP – Why even bother going to a networking event if you are not going to set some time aside afterwards to follow up?  Not following up with key people you have met networking, is totally wasteful and one of the biggest mistakes that people make.   

    You want to build relationships with a selection of people you have met, so you can establish a long term connection for the future.  You won’t want to connect afterwards with everyone you saw that day, as there is not enough time to do this and quite frankly, you are better off being a little bit selective as you want quality contacts ... and not quantity.  

    And it’s really simple to do this with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google +.  Or send a quick email to say it was great to meet them.  Again, this is not the time or place to ‘sell’ your business products or services, but ask if there is anything that you can do to help them.  

    Now, if you had a conversation where you said you would call  someone and arrange a face to face meeting, then do this straight away.  Not doing this is bad business and rude.  Do what you say you will otherwise don’t organise it in the first place.

Networking means many things to many people, but if you can try and avoid these common mistakes, then you will shine out amongst the crowd and become known as someone people will want to connect with.  


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