Successful networking is a necessary part of growing your business and taking it to the next level. Doing so requires a certain amount of social grace, including the ability to engage people in conversation and making them feel comfortable.
Avoid these three common mistakes when networking and stand out among the crowd in a positive way.
- Focus on building relationships. This will allow for long-term planning. Even if this contact can’t help you in your endeavor right now, the opportunity may arise in the future for this person to offer something of value to your business. Give something of yourself when establishing professional relationships. For example, a dance studio owner/dance teacher looking to expand her clientele by offering classes for children under 5 years old holds an open house for prospective students and their parents. When speaking with some of the parents individually, she asks each one why they would like to start the child in a dance class and offers a free demo class as well as a discounted private lesson for those interested in joining her studio. The parents recognize that the teacher is giving her time and expertise so they may have a risk-free trial before committing to a year of classes. This also allows the teacher to get to know her future students and show the parents that she truly cares about their early dance education.
- Don’t play the role of counselor; keep the conversation social and friendly. An initial introduction is not the time to offer unsolicited advice on the topic at hand. Make sure the conversation centers around common interests. The dance teacher shares her own stories about how she got started at a young age, which helps prospects relate to her on a more personal level. This is more effective than preaching her philosophy on why children should start their dance classes as soon as possible. A light-hearted conversational tone is best in networking situations.
- Digging too deeply into people’s lives makes them uncomfortable. Although you do want to build a relationship and find out a bit more about the person, be careful not to pry into their personal lives. One mother of twins attending a demo gymnastics class with her children finds herself being asked by total strangers if she used fertility treatments to conceive. A seemingly innocent question made in social conversation is actually quite personal. Don’t make the same mistake. Let the other person guide you in how much they are willing to share, but err on the side of caution when asking personal questions.
Just like many other aspects of your business, networking takes practice. The more you do it, the better you become. You can’t avoid making some mistakes; that is to be expected. However, by steering clear of certain downfalls, you can more quickly get on the road to networking success.
What advice would you give for successful networking? Please share your comments below!