Get-togethers hosted by professional or membership organisations can be a great way to build relationships with other businesses and create mutual opportunities. But facing a sea of anonymous faces can be a nerve-wracking prospect, even for seasoned networkers. That feeling of insecurity can tempt people into five common networking ‘no-no’s:
- They latch on to one person all evening or speak only to people they know
It feels nice and safe at the time but is a wasted opportunity. Moving on, politely, after 5-10 minutes is accepted networking practice: “There’s someone I need to speak to; let’s catch up later” is a good break- away phrase. Touch base with old associates but aim to meet new people, too.
- They hand out business cards like confetti…
…and will be remembered as a whirlwind passing through! Far better to wait until you’re asked for your card (shows they’re genuinely interested) or take the initiative and ask for their card – whereupon most people will ask for yours in return. Don’t forget to keep your business cards in easy reach.
- They talk about themselves all evening
Another wasted opportunity! You already know about you. Another ‘sin’ is to glance at a name badge and swiftly dismiss the person as unworthy of attention. Be genuinely interested in others and explore mutual interest and connections. Everyone loves a good listener and you’ll be surprised who you meet.
- They turn a conversation into a sales pitch
This is not the occasion for a hard sell. Instead begin to develop a relationship and arrange to meet up to find out whether they need your services or how you might help each other.
- They don’t bother to follow up any of any of their new contacts
Life’s too short to waste valuable time going to events if you are not going to make good on your contacts with a call or email.
Successful networkers know who they want to meet and why, plan their time carefully, and invest in building relationships. They approach networking with a long-term view rather than looking for short-term gain and adopt the belief that you have to give before you can receive.
This article was published in the Reading Chronicle Business Review August 2006
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