Thursday, May 28, 2009

Networking Don'ts

I’ve written a great deal about how to network effectively; I’ve also shared how you can make the most of your networking time when you do meet someone with whom you can share information and referrals in order to grow your business. Business development, as you know, is vital for entrepreneurs and sales professionals. Then I realized that there’s a lot of things that can go wrong while you’re out there networking and connecting with people. I’ve done all of these “don’ts” below and I thought I’d save you the time and trauma when you’re meeting with someone else for the first time to talk about your business.

Meeting at the wrong restaurant or meeting place. There are a lot of Paneras, Borders and sushi restaurants in the Triangle – make sure you’re meeting your person in the right one! I’ve sent folks over to the Borders on Six Forks/550 when I should have said “Borders Inside the Beltline.” It helps to be specific almost to the point where you think you’re insulting your networking colleague, but that’s OK! She’ll appreciate you saving her the driving time. Also mention when you set up the meeting whether you’ll be inside or outside. I can’t say it enough – be specific!
Don’t be late, especially if your person doesn’t know what you look like. No one wants to wonder around shouting “Nancy, Nancy – I have a meeting with Nancy!” in a public place. If you are late, please call. Before you leave the house, make sure you have the other person’s phone number.
No phone number. How can you make the call that you’re going to be late without a phone number? I’ve made this mistake quite a few times; you think you have the number in your cell phone or business card pack, but it’s not there! In order to plan my panic properly, I record my person’s number in my daytimer next to the time I’m meeting them. This tip has saved me so many times!
Not having your business cards or having dirty business cards. You wouldn’t go out in public with a tear in your pants or a big coffee stain on your shirt, would you? The same goes for having no business cards or having cards that look like your two-year-old got a hold of them. Plan your attack by having a fresh supply of clean cards ready to go the night before. Keep your stack in a box or holder that’s separated from the contents of your purse, so no crumbs can attach themselves to the sides of your cards. (Now if your cards are black you may see less of this issue.)
Talking all about yourself. Sure it’s fun to talk about yourself, but you want a conversation, not a monologue. Take turns telling the other person about your product/service and who your ideal clients or referral partners are. If you feel you’ve gone on too long, stop yourself and say, “Enough about me, tell me more about you.” Your new friend will certainly appreciate it!
No follow up. If someone has taken the time out of their busy schedule to meet with you, the least you can do is followup with them on Facebook or Tweet them a message. Better yet, send them an email with a few helpful links, information or contacts. You’re putting yourself in their minds as a thought-leader and you have just made yourself that much more valuable.

Effective networking takes some preparation so you come off looking like the professional you are. Be strong, be bold and try not to make these above mistakes (or at least limit yourself to 1 per week!).

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