The 7 Reasons Your Networking is Not Working
Networking and referrals are the lifeblood of start-ups and small businesses and there are more networking events aimed at connecting businesses now than at any point in history. You can quite easily network at breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner if you really wanted to. But what use is going to all of these events if you don't make them work for you?
Whether you are networking to grow your network, identify potential partners, build a pipeline of new prospects or simply because you work from home and want to talk to someone other than the cat, it is imperative you avoid the following common mistakes.
I got no plans, I got no fans
Time is one of the most precious commodities in life. We can buy more 'things' but we can't buy more time. Just ask Steve Jobs (too soon?!). Whether you charge by-the-hour or are on a salary, think about the value of the time you are taking away from doing other things.
Go to the function with a plan. If it's for finding new partners, research whether they are likely to be the right audience. Know what areas you need partner support in, what you value (or don't) in a partner. If you're looking for new prospects, think about your pitch without a hard-sell. This is an introduction, they aren't going to buy from you there-and-then. If that ever happens, let me know.
Being opaque makes me mysterious
Everybody is 'busy' these days and we are (hopefully) all clear about the reason we're networking. When introducing yourselves, establish an understanding of why you are both there. With that, you set expectations and you don't limit either parties ability to connect with the audience they seek (if it isn't them or you). Being opaque doesn't make you mysterious, it's frustrating, generates suspicion and devalues your personal (and business) brand.
Being 'that guy'
Much like Bullsh*t Bingo at a seminar / presentation / conference, another fun game to play is spotting 'that guy'. He/She comes in many guises. They could be the one there for the free food. They could be the one who throws their business cards around like confetti. They could be over-enthusiastically thrusting themselves in to every conversation in the room. They could be the one in the corner pretending to be popular messaging on their phone, but they're actually over there looking at cat memes. Worst of all, they could be the one who has enjoyed way more of the free booze than they should have and are now firmly established in your personal space. With bad breath.
Don't be 'that guy'.
Bring friends, make it a party.
Walking in to a room of 10 people you don't know can be intimidating. 150-200 people can frankly be terrifying. No doubt about it. But don't use your friends as a security blanket. Ever*. You end up spending more of your time talking to them and enjoying the vino and nibbles than building out your network of potential partners and clients. Get comfortable being uncomfortable - your business will benefit.
* If you absolutely have to bring a friend/colleague, agree to spread out and reconnect later.
Have a plan
I know I've already covered this, but it's important.
'Don't call me, I'll call you'
A little like giving your number to the girl/guy of your dreams that you met in a dark, dank nightclub at 3am after one too many tequilas, giving someone your contact details without getting theirs in exchange rarely results in a call. Ouch.
To avoid the feeling of disappointment that inevitably comes with never hearing back from 'the special one', make sure you get their card too. No card? No problem. We're in 2017 - that's what the 'Contacts' function in your phone is for. If they still don't want to give you their details or insist on contacting you - don't pressure them. It's creepy.
Consider your body language
Not everyone is confident in talking to new people and that's ok. But it's likely you already know that 75%+ of communication is done through body language. If you sit in a corner with your legs and arms crossed like Kevin and Perry - it's not likely you're going to meet the next big client or business partner that is going to take your business to the next level.
While you can invest in a personal brand consultant, a much more affordable alternative is to practice. Get out to as many networking events as you can, make it part of your plan to focus on your body language. People are open to open people.
Turning up is just the beginning
Ok, so you're at the event, you've awkwardly scribbled your name on a sticker like you're back in pre-school. Now what? Well, now the hard (often uncomfortable) work begins. But that's ok, because:
- You've got a plan
- You're going to be transparent
- You're not going to be 'that guy'.
- You're not lost in conversation with your friends
- Your body language presents you as open to conversation
- You've turned up
Now, what are you waiting for? Get networking.