The 13 Deadly Sins of Networking

Despite all the information about effective networking, business owners and their staff still commit serious mistakes in efforts to get face-to-face with potential clients. It seems that many business people are guilty of thinking of themselves first, and the people they can potentially serve second. As the saying goes It’s not who you know but, who wants to know you, that really counts. You have seen it and I have observed how eager people are to distribute their business card to whoever will sullenly take one and this does nothing more than irritate the very individuals with whom they are trying to build a business relationship.

While there are hundreds of sins people commit when networking, in this article, I have limited it to just thirteen of the more common ones. As you read this article, you will learn thirteen things you and your staff should never do when it comes to effectively networking your business. In addition you will learn what to do instead of the undesirable action described. The ultimate purpose of this article is to assist you and your staff to maximize networking efforts and build your profitable client base.

The first deadly sin of networking is not having a plan. To correct this, identify the best places to invest you and your staffs’ networking time. Put together a twelve month calendar of upcoming events that would be worth attending, and decide who will cover which events. Golf outings, business mixers, auctions, and chamber events, depending on your client market, are good places to invest time networking.

Whenever possible, get a list of potential clients who will be at the event you will be attending. Make it a point to prioritize who you want to meet or whom you want to re-connect with and spend time.

Next on the list is not knowing how to build a conversation with the people you meet. A conversation can get pretty dry unless you know what to say. My recommendation is to talk about that person’s most interesting topic. Of course, that most interesting topic would be them. Memorize a list of questions that you are prepared to ask the person you have just met. In my programs I teach a method of how to remember these questions.

[SYSTEM-AD-RIGHT]However for the sake of this article make it a point to ask questions like:
• What is their name?
• Why did they come to this particular event?
• Which company do they represent?
• What is their title and responsibilities?
• What are some of the issues their company is facing?
• Who are their typical customers?

The purpose of these questions is to learn about the person you have just met. There is no way you can help them unless you can begin building a business relationship and understanding more about their particular business.

The third deadly sin of networking is ignoring newcomers. People who have not been to the particular networking event you are attending often feel a bit awkward. They don’t know other people and can feel excluded unless someone like you takes the initiative and begins a conversation with them. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce them to other people you know at this event.

The next deadly sin of networking is not taking a genuine and sincere interest in the people you meet at the networking event. Most people make a decision about whether or not they like you and if they will ever do business with you in the first 4 -11 seconds. If you or your employees come across to a person they are meeting for the first time as insincere or not interested, it is the kiss of death for your company. After that kind of an impression, it is very unlikely that they will ever want to do business with your company. To avoid committing this error, ask questions about their professional and personal challenges they are experiencing. This is an excellent way to begin to develop a business relationship that is mutually beneficial.

The fifth deadly sin of networking is overstating what you or your company can do. I don’t know of too many other things that will turn another person off to you, than when you come across in a braggadocios manner. It is best to understate what your company can do and over deliver with service and results.

The next deadly sin of networking is associating or sitting with the same people with whom you work. On countless occasions I have observed how employees from the same company or organization will spend the entire evening with co-employees. While it might be more comfortable for them, it does nothing to build the business relationships that are potentially possible, if they were to initiate conversations with people from other businesses and organizations. If you are an owner or a manager of a company where your employees are prone to committing this sin, remember it is your responsibility to give them the tools to build their self confidence and network properly.

The seventh deadly sin of networking is constantly looking over the person’s shoulder with whom you are having a conversation. Regardless of the reason you are doing this, it silently communicates to the person with whom you are talking that they are unimportant and you are scoping the room for someone more important and desirable. A way to avoid this error is to focus intently on the person with whom you are speaking and nothing else. When you feel it’s time to move about the room and mingle with others, simply excuse yourself.

The next deadly sin of networking is forgetting the name of the person you have just met. Not only does this make your conversation more difficult, it sets you up for embarrassment when someone you know comes over and joins you, expecting to be introduced to the person with whom you are speaking. One way to remedy this situation is to make it a point to remember the person’s name. If you miss it or forget it, excuse yourself and ask them to repeat it. Dale Carnegie was right when he said, The sweetest most important sound in any language is to that person the sound of his or her own name. When you remember and use the name of the person you have met in your conversation with them, you will go a long way in building an effective networking relationship.

[SYSTEM-AD-RIGHT]The ninth deadly sin of networking is not asking for the business card of the person you have met. Chances are you will not remember who they are, let alone any contact information, unless you are able to get their card. To remedy this dilemma, make it a point to ask for it early in the conversation. Doing this also helps with jogging your mind of how you want to follow up after the event is over. One other thing, having their business card also helps you to remember their name after you have introduced yourself.

The next deadly sin of networking follows the last one, and that is not offering your own business card when the person whom you are talking with asks for it. Of course it is just as bad if you forgot to bring them or did not bring enough, and run out of them. Don’t make the mistake of giving out an outdated business card where you have to write your new phone number or email address on it before you hand it to them. Dirty or dog eared cards should be thrown out, not given to the people that you meet. To avoid any of the above, make sure you have plenty of clean and crisp business cards before you leave your office and head over to the networking event.

The eleventh deadly sin of networking is coming late and leaving early. This typically gives the impression of someone who does not know how to schedule their time. The individual that usually does this always seems to be in hurry with their conversation. He or she comes across as pushy and only interested in talking about him or herself and pushing one of their business cards in to your hand before rushing off to meet someone else. My recommendation is to schedule accordingly, and spend quality time at the networking event in which you are investing your reputation and time.

The next deadly sin of networking is asking for referrals when you have not earned them. Just the other day I received an email from a person whom I never met, but has heard of me. Here is what she wrote: I thought we might be good business partners. Your business description falls right into my market. We provide financing for small to medium size businesses and municipalities including schools. If your clients need financing, please consider giving me a call.

This person did not say anything about wanting to get to know more about my business, and how she could refer people to me. It was simply all about her. This is a good example of networking arrogance. This person is simply thinking about herself, and made no effort to establish a long term networking relationship that would be mutually rewarding.

The thirteenth and final deadly sin of networking that I will discuss in this article is, not following up with the people you meet at the networking event. The usual excuse for not following up with the qualified prospects you meet, is disorganization or sheer laziness. You may not want to follow up with every person you meet, but there will be people where you feel there could be an opportunity for you to be of service to them. It might be where you could refer them to someone else who could use their services or products. Either way it could be an opportunity for you to grow a solid network of individuals with whom you form a mutually beneficial relationship.

Some of the ways you could effectively follow-up are: the name and contact information of a person you suggested they connect with, emailing an article of interest to them, or some other piece of information you discovered they wanted during your conversation. The key here is to add value to the relationship. Do something that will prove your willingness to go the extra mile and be of service to them.

Networking can be an extremely effective and efficient way to earn more lifetime clients and profitably build your business. However, it can be terrible waste of time unless it is done properly. As the late Cavett Robert once said, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. So, if you want to use networking to build your business, make it a point to have you and your employees avoid committing the 13 deadly sins of marketing.