I’m sure you’ve read all the tips on the things you should be doing when networking. In theory they are all straightforward enough. But we’re only human and forget some key steps that can make the difference between wasting your time and getting a result.
The following are some of the common things I see at the hundreds of networking experiences I have each year.
1. No Plan
Serendipity is nice, I like it too, its often where the good stuff is.
But if you don’t have a reason for your networking you won’t know which groups to join, what events to attend, what to talk about, who to follow-up and what success looks like.
Get yourself a basic 3 month plan about the who/where/what and a reason or 2 to network and be systematic and consistent about the process. Then see how your travelling against your goals and refine, mix and pour.
2. Pitching Too Soon
Do you want to be sold to the first time you meet someone? Probably not.
There is a time and place for pitching your idea or spiel, and if the event is set up purposely for that, then fine, go for it, as long as everyone else is.
But most of the time you’ll be a mixer, or lunch or seminar and its small talk time. These are opportunities to just meet, get some some basic facts about you and your expertise established and move on to start cultivating the relationship.
At the end of the day, most people will choose someone they like and trust to do business with, that takes time, so work on that, pitch downstream.
3. Wrong People, Wrong Group
Sometimes you don’t have a lot of choice in your networking options, but consider three things:
- What’s the level of the person: (graduates or executives?) you need to mixing with your peers usually, especially when building up your brand and contacts.
- Culture fit: people are tribal and there are professional cultures too that can help or hinder your ability to connect and cultivate the relationship
- Market: are they the right market for what you’re looking to introduce or what to achieve more generally?
Another letdown by managers is not prepping their younger team members appropriately and they’ll outmatched by the level of executive or manager in the room and don’t represent your company the way you’d like them to, no fault of theirs.
4 . No Maintenance
This is so common its not funny. Why invest in memberships, time and effort attending events if you don’t stay in touch with the people you meet. And I don’t mean just connecting them on LinkedIn afterwards.
Coffee anyone? Time is the biggest compliment you can pay someone these days.
Meeting people is just the starting point. You may not know their potential right away, and besides even if they’re not ‘relevant’ to you now, they may be when they change jobs in 6 months or indeed, who they know. Be nice to them and they just be nice back.
5. No Teamwork
My pet peeve. Seeing several people from the same organisation turn up at an event, stick together, sit on the same table, talk to the same people. Do the math. Try splitting up and multiply the number of people you can meet.
The other let down is after the event when you get back to the office. Do you debrief, share notes of who you met and who’s going to stay in the touch with them.