Are you a networker?
I’ve been using business networking as my primary marketing strategy for the last 7 or 8 years. I met around 75% of my current clients via business networking so I absolutely know it can work. It definitely didn’t work overnight for me though. I can honestly say I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my time!
There are a huge range of benefits from business networking beyond the obvious chance to find new clients. Being part of a supportive business community and spending time with people facing similar challenges to you can be very reassuring. I also find all of my suppliers either directly through networking or by asking my network for a recommendation, so I’m much more confident about finding reliable suppliers. In fact when I moved house 18 months ago I sourced several different tradesmen through my network. No cowboy tradesmen for me!
I know there are lots of people who’ve either tried networking and were disappointed with the results, or who question whether networking could really fit for their business at all so they avoid giving it a try. So I thought it would be handy to create a short guide to help you avoid the most common mistakes that networkers make. I actually tried to make this a 5 point article but I couldn’t squeeze everything into just 5 tips, so here are my 7 biggest mistakes to avoid:
1) Expecting Immediate Results
For you to gain new clients though networking either means the people in the room choosing to buy from you; or the people in the room recommending you to their own clients. Both of those decisions involve a huge amount of trust, but I see a lot of inexperienced networkers who underestimate just how much trust they need to build. Imagine if you recommended somebody to one of your best clients and that person did a terrible job. Their bad job has the potential to damage your own reputation or credibility with your client!
Never underestimate just how much faith it takes for somebody to introduce you to their customers. And that level of faith and trust takes time. If you try and rush that by focusing on instant results then the chances are that you’ll actually come across as pushy or even self-absorbed. And neither of those things build trust. So be prepared to build relationships gradually and prove your credibility over time. You’re likely to find networking to be a slow burn but once that burn has started the pace will gradually and consistently increase. Perseverance pays off!
2) Believing You Need To Be Flawless
I meet so many people who are terrified of networking because they believe they need to be able to deliver an incredibly slick, professional, flawless pitch about their business. That they need to be dressed flawlessly, with a flawless smile, flawless business cards and flawless personality.
What a load of rubbish!
People are drawn to others who are genuine and honest. If that means you’re a bit nervous or that your introduction is a little jumbled that’s OK. Yes you do need to explain what your business is about but you don’t need to do that with fireworks, bells or whistles. Just be yourself and the people that are best fit with you will be naturally drawn to you.
3) Lumping Yourself In With Everybody Else
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard somebody stand up at a networking event and say “I do what he does” or “Sarah’s already told you what she does, well we do that too”. Please don’t do that! Even if the fundamentals of your product or service are very similar to somebody else in the room the way you deliver that service is unique to you, and it’s that uniqueness that will most appeal to people at networking.
Why would anybody choose to do business with you if you tell them that they can get exactly the same service from Dave, Allan or Lucy? That’s just making life hard for yourself! You don’t have to be flawless, but you do need to be uniquely you.
4) Not Looking Beyond The Room
This is probably the most fundamental mistake that new networkers make. So many people look at who’s attending an event and quickly dismiss it saying “there’s nobody in that room that would need my service so this event isn’t for me”. But how many of your potential clients do those people in the room already know? How many perfect prospects might they be able to introduce you to if you take the time to find out about them?
The real results from networking are not within the room itself, they’re in tapping into the huge networks of people outside of the room that those attending are already connected with. I have a client who’s attended a particular networking group for around a year. She has yet to do a single piece of business with anybody in that network. But she has invoiced tens of thousands of pounds to clients she was introduced to by people within that network. When you look beyond the room the results have the capacity to extend like tentacles in every direction!
5) Thinking It’s All About You
People at networking events are rarely there because they’re specifically looking for a new supplier. They’re there, just like you, because they’re looking for new customers. They’re interested in themselves, far more than they’re interested in you! (That was a bit of a tongue-twisting sentence wasn’t it?)
It’s easy to feel that you have to give people loads of information about what you do, how you do it, how much you charge, who else you’ve worked with and so on and so on. When actually all the other person is really interested in is ‘what’s in this for me?’ You will build far better connections with people by showing genuine interest in them and what they do, rather than showering them with the life history of your business and every intricate detail of how your product works.
The key thing you’re looking to do is to resonate with people. If you can do that then you’ll never need to worry about selling because people will naturally want what it is you’re offering.
So explain things from the other person’s perspective – who is it that you help and how do they benefit from working with you?
6) Showing You Don’t Take it Seriously
Networking falls into that classic bracket of being something that, if you’re going to do it, you really need to do it properly. It’s easy to treat it as a ‘nice to do’ or something you squeeze in when you don’t have any more important meetings to go to or you just fancy a change of scenery. But many other people there treat their networking seriously and they will be constantly assessing your reliability and credibility. Think of it this way – if somebody regularly books into a meeting but then doesn’t turn up is that the type of person you’d be likely to introduce to your own clients?
Remember, it takes time and commitment to build trust. Turning up consistently and showing that you’ve spent at least 5 minutes preparing for the event are two things that will really help you build that trust.
7) Forgetting To Follow Up
This is the place where so many people see all of their networking efforts slip through their fingers. I would say that around 15 to 20% of all the people I meet at networking events ever follow up with me. It’s actually the exception rather than the rule! It can be incredibly easy to miss this step when you leave a networking meeting, dash off to a client meeting, then deal with your phone calls and emails and more meetings. Before you know it two weeks have gone by & you’ve just spotted those business cards in your pocket and realised you’ve failed miserably to send the promised email or arrange that coffee you talked about.
The key here is creating a system. Your follow up might only be a text message, a 2 line email or a LinkedIn connection. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, it only matters that you consistently follow up with anyone you had a 1-to-1 with and anybody you promised to be in touch with after the meeting. 95% of business is done after a networking meeting rather than during it. And if only 20% of people remember to follow up how much business is being lost as a result?
I hope I’ve convinced you that networking doesn’t have to be such a scary thing. Or given you an extra snippet to work on if you’re already a keen networker. If this is something that you know really should be working for you in your business but you’re not sure where to start, or you’re frustrated by your results, then drop me a line and let’s book in a call to talk about how you could get better results.