By Donna Gould, Founder & Chief Storyteller, Open Heart Creative
Networking is a powerful tool for building professional relationships and strategic partnerships. Like all successful business endeavors, getting the best result takes time, effort, and a clear understanding of the possible pitfalls.
Here are five common networking mistakes and tips for how to avoid them:
1 – Thinking You Know Everyone
Cultivating relationships with people you know is vital, but making new connections can result in gaining valuable business insights in addition to generating leads. Look for opportunities to stretch beyond your current circle of colleagues. At BCPWN’s Work the Room, you can simultaneously learn from the experiences of people you’ve just met and find out if you have common services, interests, or needs.
2 – Taking Without Giving
Thinking only about what’s in it for you is arguably one of the biggest networking faux pas. Instead of launching onto your sales pitch right off the bat, focus on getting to know your new contact. Ask questions to discover what services or support you can provide for them. When you go the extra mile for someone else, they are far more likely to reciprocate when you ask for a favor or referral down the road.
3 – Not Being Specific
In order to get the most out of networking, you need to make sure people understand what you do, what makes your product or service special, and why they should refer you. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for new contacts to ask questions and determine how they can help.
4 – Limiting the Playing Field
If you limit your networking to professional groups or industry events, you may be short changing yourself. Be open to the possibility of making a business connection any time you step out the door. Strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line or in the elevator, and you may be surprised to find they know the perfect vendor or job candidate.
5 – Forgetting to Say Thank You
We all know follow-up is essential to effective networking. But it’s easy to overlook the importance of showing gratitude to new contacts for sharing their time and resources, regardless of whether or not you came away with a referral. Sending a simple thank you note lets others know you appreciate them and their ideas, and lays the groundwork for building meaningful business relationships that provide genuine value.