Networking mistakes – five tips on how to stop making them

networking mistakes

Networking mistakes –  One of the biggest problems in business networking is what BNI founder Ivan Misner calls the “networking disconnect”. This disconnect can be demonstrated by a simple show of hands.

If you go to a networking event and ask, “How many of you are hoping to sell something?”, almost everyone will raise their hand.

But if you ask that exact same audience how many of them are there to buy something, it’s extremely rare for even a single hand to rise.

All too often, people go to networking events wanting to sell something, but they’re surrounded by people who are completely uninterested in buying. This is an example of networking done badly.

In fact, it’s the reason why a major business venue once published an article called “Stop Networking”.

Why did this article tell people to stop networking?

Networking, the author explained, was too mercenary. He gave several examples of networking strategies and interactions, as well as the reasons why they don’t work… but those examples all consisted of networking done badly.

And then, having used these bad examples as an illustration of what he believed networking is, the writer recommended that business owners should stop working, and instead do five things:

  1. Focus on relationships, not transactions.
  1. Don’t ask for something before you give something.
  1. Don’t make the process about you.
  1. Strive for quality, not quantity in your relationships.
  1. Volunteer for leadership roles in the organizations you belong to.

It’s sound advice, except for one problem

All five of those recommendations are absolutely spot-on. And they’re also perfect examples of networking done RIGHT!

If you do your networking poorly, of course you’re going to get bad results. But the answer isn’t to stop networking – it’s to start doing it better.

When done correctly, networking is a great way to build your business

Networking is NOT a face-to-face cold calling opportunity. It’s about building relationships, not about making transactions.

While the advice to “stop networking” won’t serve you and your business, the other five tips he gave us will, so I’d like to elaborate on them. Follow these five ways to stop making networking mistakes.

Overcome networking mistakes by focusing on relationships, not transactions

The key to successful networking is to make solid connections with people, so when you follow up with them and invite them to coffee or lunch, they remember who you are and want to see you again.

If you go to networking events and try to sell to people who aren’t even interested in your offering, and you prioritize your agenda and monetary goals over the people you’re talking to, they’ll never want to see you again.

Ironically, one of the keys to making more money through your networking is to stop being in such a hurry to put that money in your pocket.

Overcome networking mistakes by not asking for something before you give something

I couldn’t agree more with this point. If you want people to invest money, time, or the trust to make referrals in you, you need to invest in some social capital first.

If you want people to be eager to meet with you after networking events, so you have opportunities to build the relationship to the point where they’ll be ready to buy from you or send clients to you, the key is to find ways to help them.

Think back to the people in the audience I talked about earlier. In that audience, there were many relationships that could have been created, but many of them likely never formed because people were there to sell, and they didn’t think about supporting or helping each other.

Overcome networking mistakes by not making the process about you

You may have the heard that it’s better to be interested than interesting. The conversation shouldn’t be all about you.

People love to talk about themselves and their businesses. When you listen and pay attention, you make them feel seen, heard and appreciated, which is a great feeling to have! They’ll associate this feeling with you, and they’ll want to be around you again.

Learning about them also enables you to discover their needs, challenges, desires, and motives – all of which will help immensely when the relationship has developed to the point where you can explore whether they might be interested in investing in your services.

Asking questions and making a connection are especially important if you’re “networking up”, or meeting someone who’s more successful than you.

You may have heard that “it never hurts to ask”, but that isn’t true. If you ask for someone’s business and money when you don’t yet have a relationship, it WILL hurt your budding connection with them – and, by extension, your chances of creating a mutually beneficial business arrangement.

Overcome networking mistakes by striving for quality, not quantity in your relationships

The one thing that’s more important than the size of your network is its quality. It isn’t a numbers game; it’s about learning about the people you’re meeting with.

That isn’t to say that numbers are completely unimportant. A BNI chapter of 32 members will pass 300% more referrals than a chapter of 16 members, so the size of the group does affect your success.

But regardless of the number of people in the room, the quality of the group – and of your interactions with it – is the most important factor.

Overcome networking mistakes by volunteering for leadership roles in the organizations you belong to

If you really want to stand out in BNI, or in any other network, volunteer and become a leader. It’s amazing how much exposure you can receive when you’re helping to run a group in which you’re active.

When you’re one of the people running a group, you stand out as a leader, and instantly gain credibility and competence in the eyes of the other attendees. Now you aren’t just another group member; you’re one of the leaders.

Networking was the foundation of our founder’s success

Ivan Misner has built a global company with offices in more than 65 countries, and he’s done it all by building relationships, networking, and getting referrals.

So the advice that he and I give is, DON’T stop networking. Just start networking the right way, and make sure to follow up with your contacts as soon as possible after the meeting is over.

Maybe you won’t be good at it instantly. It might take time. But by applying these five basic rules, you’ll greatly increase your success – not just in networking and business, but in the rest of your relationships as well.  And don’t forget – first impressions are lasting impressions – clean up your act before you go out networking.

Ready to create more relationships and revenue?

If you want to get more referral partners, clients and income, I have two invitations for you today:

The first is to visit our website, and listen to Ivan Misner’s podcast about how to network in a way that makes people WANT to support you.

And secondly, I invite you to join us at our next BNI meeting!

There, you’ll meet brilliant, like-minded entrepreneurs who would love to support your journey to success, and who have the skills to make that journey faster, easier and more fun.

To find a BNI chapter to visit click this link.

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