You go to all of those events! The meet ups! Networking groups. Mixers. Clubs. Chapters. Cells. Chambers. Cocktail parties. The whole deal! Then, the follow up coffee meetings. Lunch meetings. After hours. Phone meetings. Skype. Zoom. Google Hangouts.
And really, for what?
I know a lot of this is fun. A lot of fun! Nothing I love more than a few laughs over a diet gluten free decaf low fat pumpkin spice strawberry chocolate pecan mint caramel cookie dough flavored latte with extra sprinkles and a banana in the middle of the day.
It’s a lot more fun though if some of those meetings turned into business. Or at least great friendships. Do yours? That is, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Business networking is all about learning about other people’s businesses, interests, and loves. And when you get to know, like, and trust them, you may have an opportunity to refer them business. Especially if you come in contact with those that hire them or can refer them to someone that can. Simple as that!
If you do all of this for enough of the right people, they may refer business right back to you.
And that’s networking!
Here are 5 mistakes that often get in the way.
Those people you meet at those meetings are NOT your prospects. Those contacts are there to build their own business, not yours. As soon as you start to pitch them on a product or service, they will probably be turned off. Why wouldn’t they be? The people you meet at networking meetings are probable referral sources. They may become prospects and clients over time but wait for them to let you know if they’re interested in becoming your client. Help them get what they want and they may help you right back. As mentioned, that’s how it works.
As in meeting people and adding their email addresses to your blog or newsletter. If you don’t have their permission, that’s spamming. An immediate turnoff! (Hopefully you’re not reading this as a result of me doing that to you!) Feel free to invite those you meet to your blog. Or better yet, get to know, like, and trust them so they can get to know, like, and trust you. Once you have a relationship with them, forward your blog and ask if they would like to be added to your list. Don’t make the last impression someone has of you be “unsubscribe.”
Meeting for the Wrong Reasons
If you’re going to set up a meeting with someone (especially a face-to-face, the non Zoom type), have a good reason for it. Hopefully it’s mutually beneficial. If not, make the nature of the meeting evident. There are really only a few reasons to set up a meeting in the first place. They can hire or refer you. You can hire or refer them. You can refer one another. You can learn more about one another to see if there is a business fit. It’s some sort of interview for a membership or board position. It’s social. That’s pretty much it. Be selective with your meetings and upfront about the purpose. You’ll have more room on your calendar for the meetings that count.
Not Following Up
The kryptonite to networking! You shouldn’t follow up with everyone you meet but you should reconnect if there is a good reason. (See above!) I’m sure you have a stack of business cards you’ve collected over the past few months bound together in a snarl of rubber bands. Might be the result of not following up or not following through. If you meet someone at an event and you have a good feeling about your discussion (and about them), exchange business cards (that still happens by the way) or contact info electronically and promise to reconnect by phone, online, or over said beverage. Then do it. Be the one to take the initiative. Make your follow up happen over the next 24 hours after meeting, the next business day, or whenever the two of you decide to coordinate. Or it may never happen.
Not Staying in Touch
Out of sight is out of mind. Believe it. We’ve all lost touch with people over the years that we probably should not have. I recently ran into someone that I was friends with and hadn’t seen in 30 years. We hugged. Still can’t believe I ran into him since we both live in a different state from where we used to work together. How many business contacts have you made over the years that you let go because you don’t have a process in place to prevent that from happening? LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media are ideal for staying in touch or reconnecting with those who have fallen off your radar. Make a list of your top prospects, clients, referral sources, associates, and “friends” that should know what you’re up to. Socialize, have fun, and then follow my networking points above. See what happens!
Let me know if you ever want to Zoom and we can discuss it all further. Seriously! And the latte is on me.