For any business creating a large network is key to rapid growth. As someone who has been networking for a few years now, I have realized many flaws in those doing the networking that is not only losing sales but wasting precious hours. The last half of this post are the crucial steps that will usually make the difference between making the sale or waiting around for the call that never comes.
Common Networking Mistakes:
You talk more than 50% of the time
You should be asking lots of questions and getting to know their business and their needs. Ask them what got them into the business, what their current needs are and how you can help them out.
You don’t actually look at their business card
Make a note to look at both sides for about 5+ seconds, take note of their name and say it in your head a few times. An easy trick to not forget it and then put it in your pocket. Their business card is an extension of them so treat it with respect.
You eat too much
Do not pick up the food that will make your breath stink or will fill your mouth so you cannot have a conversation. The smaller the food and smaller the bites, the better.
You stay longer than you should
If you meet someone who is just there to pitch you, get out as fast as possible. If you don’t see the conversation adding value to you or it having a potential fit to help each other out, get out after 5 minutes. If the conversation is going great and you are reaching the 10-minute mark schedule a follow-up coffee. The best excuses to leave a conversation are asking where the food or drinks are and a hearty “it was great to meet you (insert name here).”
You do not bring business cards, or you do not get one from them
Even if it is a cheap one with your name, e-mail and phone number to start, that is better than not having anything. I have found people are hesitant to give out their personal info to someone who isn’t willing to share theirs. If you leave without their business card that can be seen as disrespectful but it also doesn’t give you an e-mail or phone number to follow up.
You think networking is all about making a sale
Everyone thinks networking is about making a sale, but it is just as much about educating yourself. Learning about different industries, and how others are conducting their business should give you tons of information on how to better run, position or market yours.
You do not have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
Add them to your CRM (check out Hubspot, Salesforce, Constant Contact) with notes about what you talked about with any follow-up points that are needed. For example, “we talked about his need for a bookkeeper and I said I know of a great one I would pass along”, or “he is a big fan of Football, send a follow-up e-mail after the Monday Night game”, or best yet “he is interested in my services in one month, send over more details.”
Staying on top of your CRM is very important, let us know if you need some help with this.
You expect an immediate return
Networking is a long game, the goal is to get to know the right people and follow up with them to keep yourself top of mind. If they are not your ideal client their colleague, partner or sibling may be. I made the sale 18-24 months after the initial contact and it wasn’t always to them. If I miss a month of networking I will not feel it tomorrow, but I will down the road.
You do not follow up
If I count the number of business cards I have and then check the number of follow-up e-mails I received from those people the number would be less than 1%. Taking the time out of your busy life, away from work and family to network, and then not following up is wasted hours. Follow up by e-mail, add them on LinkedIn and post content regularly on LinkedIn to keep yourself top of mind. One task I handed off to my VEA (Virtual Executive Assistant) was to manage my e-mails and CRM to make sure no leads were failing through the cracks. It paid itself off immensely.
You do not offer value
Sending a follow-up e-mail without following up on something you talked about, asking them to follow your social media or worse, pitching them, does not work. When following up, ask them if there is a social media platform you could follow them on to support them, and send a blog post about what you talked about. Find a way to help them out without the expectation of a return.
You do not follow up twice
This is where your CRM comes into play. After the first time you met, add them to your CRM with notes about what you talked about. Offer value again unless they specifically said they want to meet with you to talk business in one week, one month, etc.
You do not follow up a third time
Do not stop following up until you feel like you can no longer offer each other value or they are a cold lead. Never get to the point of pestering them or overwhelming them with e-mails or phone calls and definitely do not add them to your e-newsletter without their permission.
Networking can and will grow your business but it will take a lot of trial and error to see where you should be meeting people as well as finding out what works and what doesn’t. A CRM will be your best friend in all of this and help you to maximize your conversion rate. As I said above a virtual Executive Assistant will also help to make sure no leads or conversations are falling through the cracks. Let us know if there are any tasks you need to delegate to maximize your time networking and to see a larger ROI.
Derek Burbidge, Manager of Sales & Marketing
If this helped and you want to learn more, see our blog post on ‘Why Building Your Network will Transform your Business.’