Avoid 5 of the Biggest Networking No-No’s

Published on July 16, 2012

When done correctly, face-to- face networking (yes with real live people) in certain circles can be a valuable way to meet key influencers, learn more about your niche market, and expand your connections.

Key ingredients when engaging in networking events:

      • First impressions are important – VERY important
      • Differentiate yourself from other people in your field
      • Come from contribution
      • Look for and connect with key members
      • Be consistent

1. Make a good first impression

It is much easier to make a good first impression than it is to fix a bad one. Take time to prepare in advance and consider what your goals are for the meeting. Networking groups are about ‘connecting’ not selling. The exception is when groups are specifically designed for referring business (i.e BNI groups).

Tips for success:

  • Always greet the host and appreciate them for inviting you or allowing you to attend (whichever the case).
  • Be curious to learn about what others in the group do and how you can help them vs. telling them all about you.
  • Have your 30 second introduction prepared for when asked to stand and introduce yourself to the group (this needs to be relevant to the makeup of the group).
  • Be ON TIME – these are not like some industry events (especially real estate) where it is socially acceptable to roll in 10 min late!
  • Stay for the whole meeting – block your time accordingly.
  • TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! Be attentive and take notes.
  • Send a thank you note to the host following the event expressing your appreciation for the meal, hospitality, etc.

Biggest ‘first impression’ No-No:

  • Asking for business (referrals) before gaining rapport and connecting!

 

2.  Differentiate yourself

You may be the only person in your field at the meeting or you may be one of 3 or more others. Be prepared to differentiate yourself from the others. The goal is to stand out – in a GOOD way.

  • Introduce yourself to others and ask them about their business or their cause.
  • Listen and be curious about them rather than talking about yourself.
  • Have a relevant response prepared when they ask what you do.
  • Prepare a 30 second self-introduction for when you are asked to stand and announce yourself (project your voice).
  • If taking materials or business cards for exchange, make them relevant to the group.
  • Unless you already have rapport in the group, dress professionally. Try not to look like a walking company billboard.
  • Speak their language. Do your research in advance so you know their jargon. Sound like ‘one of them’ – mirror and match.
  • Wear a name tag.

Biggest ‘differentiation’ No-No:

  • Sounding just like every other person in the room (generalist).
  • Focusing on what you DO vs the outcome you create for your clients.

 

3. Come from contribution

Salespeople are taught to always be looking for business – lead generation is engrained in them. Networking events are not prospecting events – they are relationship building events. Most of the people in the room will not be sales people and they come from industries that are skeptical of sales people. Look for ways to GIVE and build rapport…the relationship comes before the leads.

  • Listen for what they need and consider if you have a resource or idea that could help them.
  • Ask questions about ways you can help them better serve their customers and clients.
  • Consider sponsoring an event, making a donation, or volunteering for programs they are promoting.
  • Take something to give away for a door prize.
  • Plug in between meetings. Go to events sponsored by other group members to show support.
  • Write blogs or tweet about businesses or services you learned about and tag them when you do.

Biggest ‘coming from contribution’ No-No:

  • Expecting leads or business without first adding value.

 

4. Connect with key group members

Each networking group has a mix of participants. Some are there just because their boss told them to show up and promote the business, while others are there because they are truly passionate about their work and their cause. In every group there are a few ‘movers and shakers’ and those are your key connections. When you connect with the ‘movers and shakers’ and make a good impression, they will be eager to introduce you to other key players in the industry.

Look for people who have the following characteristics:

  • Happy to be there – they smile and are engaged
  • Confident and articulate
  • People make a conscious effort to be around them
  • Seem to be “in charge” in a good way
  • Making introductions between group members
  • Complimentary of other people or businesses
  • Share your personal values and philosophies
  • Business owners, managers, or marketing positions
  • People to whom you feel naturally attracted

It is critical to follow up with your connections between meetings. Call, email, or meet personally to find out more about them and how you can get into relationship (through contribution). Send a personal note within a day or two of the meeting. Consider creating a goal of making a certain number of connections at each meeting you attend so you continue to grow your network.

Biggest ‘connecting’ No-No:

  • Not following up.

 

5. Be consistent

There are A LOT of meetings and networking groups out there and a person can get bogged down by sitting in meetings all month long. If you are just entering the networking scene, visit several meetings and see which ones resonate with you. Of course there is also the issue of scheduling. Although the chances are you won’t be able to attend every meeting held by any one group, it is critical that you have a consistent attendance to insure credibility and validity.

  • Once you choose which group you will plug into, put all the dates/times in your schedule.
  • Be committed to attendance just as if it were a client appointment.
  • If you must miss a meeting, be sure to let the host know in advance (especially if you RSVP’d that you would be there).
  • Consider dropping off a door prize in advance of the meeting to be given away in lieu of your attendance. At least your name will be mentioned to the group.
  • Follow up after the meeting with key connections to see what you missed and reconnect with them.

Biggest ‘consistency’ No-No:

  • Sporadic attendance

 

Have Fun. Share Your Passion. Be Curious. Come from Contribution.

 

Nikki and Chris Buckelew are recognized international coaches, trainers, and speakers. Their specialties include sales, real estate, seniors housing, and leadership coaching.  Clients who hire Nikki and Chris are often seeking assistance in increasing their profitability without sacrificing their health, relationships, and core values. For more information visit www.NikkiandChris.com.

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