Have you ever come away from a networking event wondering if it was really worth the time and effort? Guest author Michael Boyette has a list of 8 mistakes you might be making that can cost you business.
Have you ever come away from a networking event wondering if it was really worth the time and effort?
You’re not alone.
It’s easy to get caught up in having a good time – or connecting with just one or two people – and forget the reason you came: to build multiple new relationships that will help your business.
Mistakes at networking events can be so subtle, you don’t realize you're making them. But the good news is that mistakes like these are completely avoidable.
Here are 8 things not to do at your next networking event:
- Mindless socializing. It’s okay to talk about movies, vacations, or last night’s baseball game. Socializing has its place, and you should find ways to relax and have fun. But remember the reason you’re there is to develop business, cultivate a client, or learn something new. That's priority number one.
- Concentrating on the sale. Repeat this mantra often: “No selling at networking events!” Focus on willingly sharing information and insight, with no obvious agenda beyond building a relationship. Let the business evolve from there. Accept the need to invest time in developing relationships.
- Not connecting with the event itself. There’s a high payoff from investing your time in helping out. Offer to hand out survey forms or raffle tickets, help greet people, deal with registration, or even arrange furniture. Do not think of this as “beneath your dignity.” At the registration table, for example, you can get an early look at who’s attending. And helping out gives you positive access to more people you can connect with later during the event.
- Being too involved in the food and drink. This may seem obvious, but don’t let the buffet or bar become the center of your universe. Hint: Keep a half-full drink in your hand and use needing a refill as an excuse to break away from a no-payoff conversation.
- “Winging it” without doing your homework. You should know who you want to connect with (at least by title, profession, or industry), what to expect at the event itself (type of venue, cocktails, luncheon speaker, seminar, etc.) type of seating (round tables, theater style, etc.). Go further to think through what you’re going to say and the outcomes you seek. Prepare notes and lists while doing your research. LinkedIn and Google are good resources for advance information.
- Not asking good questions. Questions like “Do you come here often?” are obviously lame. Open-ended queries that spark conversation are much more effective. Rule of thumb: Ask the kinds of questions you’d want to be asked.
- Using a weak elevator pitch. You know your own business best and what you are looking for. Find a way to say it in a way that does not come off as a sales pitch per se, or seem scripted in a robotic way. Develop guidelines that emphasize your experience, special skills, and the type of business you are looking for, when you’re asked!
- Dropping the ball in terms of follow-up. Start working on follow-up at the event, not after you leave. If it feels right to you, the dialog might go like this: “Let’s trade business cards and explore ways we can help each other” or “What do you think about getting together to brainstorm about this problem? What would be a good time for you?” As a fallback, take notes on the business cards you collect, so you know what the next step should be with each connection.
Michael Boyette is the Executive Editor of Rapid Learning Institute and thought leader for the Top Sales Dog blog. Michael is a nationally recognized authority on selling and is the author of numerous training programs for sales reps and sales managers. Michael has managed public-relations programs for US Healthcare, Bell Communications Research, and DuPont. Connect with Michael via Twitter @TopSalesDog.