Business contacts, whether they are made at an event or through a colleague, are valuable to every salesperson. Each and every one holds the possibility of being a quality lead and perhaps, a lucrative client.
But there’s definitely a savviness needed when networking. First impressions matter, and if you bungle one, it’s likely that business contact won’t lead anywhere. “We have all been victims (or perhaps "victimizers") of bad networking practices,” writes Belén Gómez Pereira for Entrepreneur.com. She sheds some light on common mistakes people make when networking, explaining why reps would be wise to avoid each.
2.) Acting like a know-it-all
4.) Bad manners
5.) Offensive jokes
6.) Compulsive selling
7.) No plan
Mistakes When Making Business Contacts
One common mistake that reps can make is being a “yo-yo.” These networkers spend the entire time talking about themselves. Just like dating, making business contacts involves learning what you can about the other person. Reps should use this time listening as much as they talk, especially if they feel the other person would make a quality lead. If you find yourself doing most of the talking during networking chats, hit the brakes. This not only gives you the opportunity to learn more about the person, but it also shows that you want to learn about them.
Another networking person to avoid being is the know-it-all. Likely, you’ve encountered this type of person and not been impressed. So why mimic that annoying behavior? Business contacts will also be less than impressed. “To create solid contacts, you have to accept: 1) that you cannot know everything and 2) that the other person may know something that you do not and that helps you grow your business,” she explains. This doesn’t mean that you should never discuss your expertise; if an appropriate moment in the conversation comes up, feel free to share your own knowledge but do it in an authentically humble manner.
Basic Manners Always Apply
When making business contacts, be sure to not ignore the very basics of manners and social decorum. One mistake that those who are networking often make is hopping into others’ conversations. Bouncing from discussion to discussion, interrupting along the way, just isn’t cool. If there is someone whom you’d really like to meet who is already engaged, just be patient. Wait until that conversation ends or after the event.
And don’t forget other basic manners that may seem like common sense. Talking with food in your mouth, not allowing for personal space, crude language, and other social no-no’s are surprisingly still common at networking events. If you exhibit any of these distasteful behaviors, it’s likely you won’t leave with many business contacts’ information.
Humor can be a fantastic way to break the ice when meeting someone new. When used correctly, that is. It can be a fine line between what one person finds funny and another finds offensive or crude. “Forcing humor is a terrible strategy and can make the other person block you and not want to reconnect with you,” Gómez Pereira explains. If you aren’t sure if a joke is appropriate or not, that’s a sign it shouldn’t be said.
Keep It Professional
Making business contacts can be fun and engaging. But don’t get so caught up that your professionalism falters. Keep in mind that networking is exactly that: networking. Typically, first contact with someone isn’t a time for a hard sell; it just isn’t appropriate. Not only have you not qualified the other person as a lead yet, but they also likely don’t want to hear a pitch from someone they just met.
Also, don’t ever attend an event, no matter how big or small, virtual or in-person, without a plan. Do some research on the host, as well as the attendees and their industries and companies. Also, prepare yourself for smooth, engaging conversations. “Make sure you have a good pitch about yourself and what you do; keep it short and concise,” she adds.
As networking events begin happening again, take time to polish your own skills and behavior. Making business contacts is essential to success, so be prepared the next time you have the opportunity to network by avoiding these common mistakes.
Photo by HIVAN ARVIZU