Networking is a skill that must be developed, as I learned the hard way when I started my own business. Based on my experiences, I’ve developed a hit list of networking mistakes. Here are my top 3:
Mistake #1: No preparation. A mistake I made early on was not thinking about what I wanted out of the meeting. Was I expecting to walk away with a new client? Could the person I was meeting connect me to someone I wanted to meet? Who did I want to meet? Was there someone in my network that I could connect to the person I was meeting? In other words, I didn’t prepare properly. I learned my lesson. Now when the other person says “so how can I help you,” I whip out my list of 3 – 5 names to which I’d like to be connected. It all starts with preparation.
By now, everyone knows that LinkedIn and Facebook are great resources for gathering information about people. I want to know if we have any common interests or experiences. I also look at company websites to see who they target as customers to see if there are ways we can help our mutual businesses.
Mistake #2: No show. It can be a challenge to schedule a meeting because anyone you really want to meet already has multiple obligations making it difficult to find an open date. But if we’re agreeing to meet it means we both expect to get something of value from the meeting. So not showing up is bad. I’ve waited at coffee shops for people who never showed and never called to let me know they couldn’t make the meeting. It’s hard not to take it personally. To limit the no show problem, I confirm via email a day or two before the scheduled date. When I’ve screwed up and missed a meeting, I’ve emailed or called the other person as soon as possible to apologize. I want to limit the damage done to my reputation.
Mistake #3: No referrals. I’ve lost count of the coffee meetings I’ve had where the other person offered nothing. What was the point of meeting if you’re not prepared to make connections? One of the most effective networkers I know goes into each meeting expecting to connect the other person with at least one person in his network. Even if he doesn’t get any referrals, he’s helped the other person achieve a goal. My networking improved when began using the same approach. If I can help others achieve their goals, I will eventually be rewarded.
As I continue to hone my networking skills, I’m sure my list of networking mistakes will also be refined. Meanwhile, I continue striving to avoid committing my top 3 mistakes of networking.
About Norma Shirk
Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.
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