Networking gets a bad rap. But, as with so many things, it’s usually just the bad apples who spoil it for everyone else.
As someone who has attended (and hosted) more than my fair share of networking events, I’m going to let you in on bad networking habits every small business owner should break. You know, the kind of habits and bad business etiquette that spoil it for the rest of us.
And remember, if you see yourself on my list of networking faux pas, it is time to correct your networking wrongs.
You lack initiative.
You ask for a meeting, sale, call, or email but you don’t take the initiative. Let’s say you ask someone to introduce you to another business owner whom they know. Said contact makes an introduction and your response is, “Call me when you can.” Wrong response! If you are in the position of wanting something, it is 100 percent your job to make the call, go to his or her office, follow up, etc. If you’re not willing to take the initiative and keep the momentum moving, do not ask for the introduction, call, email or sale. Period.
You card blast.
Ever attend a networking event and meet that person who hands you a card before you ask for one — and then races around the room doing the same thing to everyone else? If that’s you, throw away your business cards on your own, because they are going to land in the trash anyway. If you’re looking to turn someone off before opening your mouth, that’s a surefire way to do it.
You pretend we’ve met.
Have you ever gotten an email or voicemail proclaiming “It was so nice to meet you!” and you’re racking your brain to figure out who this person is? That’s probably because you don’t know. The person likely got your information in a way that you didn’t permit, and then attempts to sell you their agenda by pretending there is rapport between you. It is never wise to start any relationship with a lie, no matter whether it’s business or personal, big or small.
You can’t stop talking.
Want to know one of the best ways to get someone’s attention? Ask them questions, genuinely listen, and follow-up with sincere responses. No other words need come from you. The more you talk about yourself without being asked, the less the person on the receiving end is likely to care.
You ask strangers for a referral.
If I don’t know you, I can’t like or trust you and therefore, I will not refer your business. Hence, if you meet me in passing, don’t ask me to find business for you. It takes work to create that type of relationship, so don’t expect it within five minutes.
Your eyes are all over the room.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone whose eyes are constantly darting around the room? Did you feel like they really cared about what you were saying? Doubtful. Pay attention when you’re talking with someone. At that time, no one else matters. Don’t be the person who commits the sin of always looking for what’s “better.” Feel free to politely excuse yourself when the conversation is complete.
You take before you give.
Looking for a joint venture? A friend? A date? A deal? Here’s a tip: Before you ask someone for anything, consider what you can offer to them first. Just asking the question, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” will go a long way. People like to be reciprocal, so don’t treat interactions like one-sided transactions. What goes around comes around.
You’re a horse disguised as a unicorn.
What looks like a horse, has wings, and a horn atop it’s a head? Did you guess a unicorn? If so, you’re correct! Don’t be a networking unicorn, because unicorns are not real. Be yourself; be real. Take off the wings and the horn and be a horse if that’s what you are. People can see through it.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Darrah Brustein is the co-founder of Equitable Payments, a merchant services brokerage, and founder of Network Under 40, a monthly networking event for young professionals. Darrah authored Finance Whiz Kids, a series of kids book that teach the basics of financial education. Connect with @DarrahB on Twitter.
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