Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or small business owner or career professional, you probably spend a fair amount of your time at networking events to build your business.
Here are some common mistakes we make at networking events:
1. We schmooze, but don’t make the necessary connection with people to get business. It’s great to meet new people, but effective networking is not just about how many new people you can meet. It’s about making more meaningful connections; building and leveraging relationships that will over time get you new clients. It’s about quality not quantity.
2. We mingle with no strategy. Who is attending the event? Who do you want to connect with that you have determined might be a potential client or referral source or even someone to collaborate with? Make it your business to meet the people who will have the most impact on your business. Focus and be intentional.
3. We assume that people automatically understand the value of our products and services when we introduce ourselves and hand out our business card. It’s important to use benefit language to clearly communicate the value of your service so people you meet can immediately determine if you will meet their needs or if they know of someone else who could benefit from your product or service.
4. We give away too much. This includes too much information, too many things for free, and too many business cards. When we first meet someone at a networking event, we should not talk about ourselves endlessly. Craft your message so you just give enough information to stimulate curiosity and more conversation. Engage in a dialogue, not a monologue. You will learn more about the person.
Don’t offer to give away too many free products or services. Be strategic about give-aways. What product or service positions you best? What will provide a good intro so that people will want to purchase more?
Finally, don’t go to networking events with the goal of giving out as many business cards as you can. Collecting cards from the people you have good conversations with is much more important. Write notes on the back of those cards so you remember who they are and what they said. Once you have their card, you control the follow up.
5. We don’t follow up. What’s the point of going to events to meet new people and then not following up? Following up is how you begin to build relationships that will bring you business. If you tell someone you will make an introduction for them or send them information, do it and do it as soon as possible after the event. Determine who the key people were that you met and send a personal note and set up a time to talk or meet them again. This is the beginning of developing a network that will bring you business.