Before I started my business, I had no experience or knowledge of selling, and I had moved to a new area, and didn’t know anyone locally.
So, I needed to network a lot to get my business known and off the ground. As I learnt to network successfully I can fairly confidently say that I made every mistake in the book.
So, let me share with you my eight horrible business networking mistakes – so you can avoid making the mistakes I did
Forgetting to exchange contact details:
It sounds obvious but it happens; you both really connected, had an interesting chat, and then completely forgot to exchange details so you could continue the conversation. Always make sure you have business cards with you and your mobile phone so you can collect their details there and then, and do follow up!
Not practising your pitch:
A mumbled, unprepared pitch will put almost everyone off! Work on a snappy pitch that describes what you do and what you offer, in 10 words or less. Add a personal relatable story about how what you do has made a difference for someone, and what you are looking for from your networking colleagues. Your aim is to grab their interest and encourage them to want to approach you to know more, and for them to know who they can refer to you.
Not being interested in them:
Networking is not about selling. It’s about building relationships. When you approach other networkers, show genuine interest in them and what they do before even mentioning what you do. Ask after them, find out what they are up to, how you can help them…. And then, by remembering little details they’ve told you, you build rapport and connection. Without connection, they will never buy from you or refer you. It takes time – but the payoff is worth it.
Sharing your woes:
Let’s face it, your networking colleagues are just not interested in your problems and negativity. No one wants to hear that your business is struggling – and no one wants to buy from a struggling business.
However, do let them get to know you, share your vulnerability and lessons you’ve learned along the way, and ask for advice, as these will help you become relatable and build connection.
Unfortunately, lots of people will try and get you to discount or give away your product/service for free. Don’t take it personally. It’s human nature.
Counter this by researching the market rate, knowing your value and what added value you bring, and respecting yourself. Stick to your guns regarding price, and they will appreciate you. If they don’t, move on and find someone who does – don’t compromise on your worth.
Giving average service:
There’s probably lots of people or companies doing what you do, so why should they buy from you and not your competitor? What differentiates you from everyone else out there? What’s your unique selling point (USP)? What makes you stand out from the crowd? Alongside building relationships, you need to go above and beyond with your customer service and deliver real value. This will make you memorable. And don’t be afraid to ask them for a testimonial for your website and at the next networking meeting.
There’s a fine line between passion and pushiness. Listen to others, be polite, friendly, approachable, and do share your passion because people will buy into that. Avoid being evangelical and desperate as this definitely turn people off.
Remember, your product/service isn’t going to be for everyone and that’s ok, so know when to walk away. But, always keep the door open for them to approach you again in the future when the time is right for them, or for them to be able to refer you to others they may know.
Not following up:
Let’s face facts, unless you’ve got something they are looking for at that exact moment in time, it’s unlikely they will bother to get in touch with you. So, it’s up to you to contact them the day after connecting, and arrange a coffee and chat to get to know each other better and discover how you can support one other.
Connections are made at the network meeting, relationships are built outside of it. Get their permission to go on your mailing list, invite them into your Facebook group, connect with them on LinkedIn. These are all ways for them to remember you and for you to remain at the forefront of their mind when they are ready to buy your product/service or refer you. Remember, “the fortune’s in the follow up.”
By avoiding the mistakes above you’ll find networking can be a great way to build your business.
About the author
Sue Fish is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.