Here are the three biggest mistakes I see people make when business networking – plus a few ideas on how to fix each one.
Mistake #1: Saying Too Much Too Soon
When visiting a retirement community, I’ve learned to never ask “How are you.”
Because invariably they will tell me. In intimate detail. About every ailment and each doctor visit for the past five years.
And the same thing happens at networking events.
You ask someone “What do you do” and they smile, and take a deep breath, and launch into a long prepared speech that has no relevance to you or any of the work you would ever do.
It’s awkward because it’s too much too soon.
It’s like asking someone to marry you on a first date.
It’s no wonder people’s eyes glaze over, and understandable that people are always interested in polite ways to escape from well meaning yet misguided monologues.
I get it. People work really hard on their 30-Second Elevator Pitch and are eager to show it off.
And when I suggest that people start a conversation based on mutual interests, I see the panic in their eyes. “But when do I get to talk about business?”
The answer is: when someone asks.
If they don’t ask, you don’t get to talk about it.
So I teach people to come up with a 7-Word Elevator Pitch.
You say seven words, then you wait for a response.
They’ll ask a question, or tell a related story, then you can reciprocate with the same.
Now you’re in a conversation.
And over time – and many conversations – you’ll gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what they do.
(Hint: they’ll gain the same about you).
So go to networking events with the intent to connect with people.
To start conversations.
Then pick a few people you enjoy talking to and invite them to sit down for coffee and explore how you can help each other grow your businesses.
Mistake #2: Great Expectations
“But nobody signed up.”
There’s this persistent myth that with the right Elevator Pitch, people will start throwing money at you.
But an Elevator Pitch never closes sales.
An Elevator Pitch starts conversations, which lead to more conversations, which lead to opportunities to sell.
What should you expect from a networking event?
You can expect to meet 2 to 3 people where you enjoy talking with them and there is mutual interest in continuing the (non-business) conversation.
Set up coffee meetings with them.
That’s how you’ll meet more people, find good projects, and, yes, get more clients.
You get to know people over time.
You won’t close sales at the event.
Look for conversations that start and are worth continuing.
Mistake #3: Selling instead of Networking
How can people think they’re networking when they’re actually selling?
Because if you Google for how to network you get advice like:
- Collect Business Cards
- Study Attendance Lists
- Follow Up Persistently
…collecting business cards is for cold calling.
…studying attendance lists is prospecting.
…persistent follow up is for when you’re selling.
None of that is networking.
- Start Conversations
- Get to know people at Coffee Meetings
- Develop Trust through Professional Introductions
Use a 7-Word Elevator Pitch to start conversations.
Continue the better conversations over coffee meetings.
Develop Trust through Professional Introductions
What the biggest business networking mistakes you’ve seen someone make?
Leave it in the comments below!