Networking is a vital element for the success of a firm. Unfortunately, the skills required to get the most out of networking does not come naturally to everyone. Networking can be intimidating for many reasons. Talking to various people might not be in your job description, but it can be crucial to your long-term business and professional survival. Although networking can be intimidating, it is a powerful key to success and therefore it is best to have a plan to keep you on track.
If you feel comfortable with your networking skills, you have more than likely already figured out how to work your way through a few hours of intense interactions. You most likely have a basic networking what-to-do list in place. But do you have a what-not-to-do list? It is sometimes more important to know what not to do, than what to do.
Here are some of the basic pitfalls to avoid when you are networking:
Do not try to sell
Networking and selling are two different things. A networking event is a place to meet people and establish a solid relationship between yourself and someone else. You can build up the relationship over time. Maybe this person will buy from you or make use of your services, or maybe they will not. After all, how many people go to a networking function to buy something? Go to the function to get to know the people around you.
Avoid chasing numbers
Networking is not about the number of contacts you have. Collecting a large amount of names that you have met is not going to help you at all. It is not effective networking. Networking well and building up useful connections is all about really knowing the people in your network and them knowing you. It is about building up relationships, respect and trust. A brief conversation does not really develop a relationship, and calling people you have only met briefly is not much different from cold calling them. If you (or them) are just a number, it means nothing. Think quality, not quantity!
Do not arrive late
The most influential people will often show up early and that should be reason enough for you to be on time. You will get a lot more out of creating relationships with the influencers and leaders of a particular group. These people will know more connections and are often the key to the rest of the group. Also, when you are seen with the leaders, others will perceive you to be a leader and they will start running after you instead of you having to chase them.
Do not ignore your current network
We all have a network ready and waiting for us before we even start going out to networking functions. It is a common occurrence to forget about the people who you already know. During your studies and career, you have met many motivating and gifted people. It can be very easy not to realise just how many people you really know or just how valuable your network actually is. Do not dismiss or forget about these individuals. Spend time with them and get closer to the network you already have. Work on forming meaningful relationships with them, you never know who you may come across.
Avoid networking without a plan
If you were planning a business activity, you would have a plan in place for the activity to succeed. The same should happen for your networking event. Without a plan, you are almost certain to fail. You need to know exactly what you want to get out of the networking event. Business partners? Contacts? Ideas? Whatever it is, if you know what you are looking for, you will have a better chance of achieving it.
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This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.