Networking is one of the most valuable skills a professional can develop; yet there seems to be a lack of educational resources on networking best practices. It is common for people to make mistakes that undermine their networking efforts. Below are 5 common errors with advice on how to avoid them.
1. Talking Too Much
Most people like to talk about themselves way more than they like to listen. However, taking time to listen instead of talking at people can help you build rapport and achieve your business objectives. Listening helps you obtain a better understanding of people – their challenges, interests, personality, goals, opportunities, etc. Armed with this information, it will be easier to find common ground and identify ways to work together. Many people think they always need to be talking, bragging, or promoting themselves, or selling in order to get people to like them. In reality, people really cares about what is being said; they’re just waiting for a break in the conversation to talk about themselves. Find the right balance between talking and listening. It will help you gain insight into your person of interest, creating opportunity to tailor your comments to best meet his/her interests.
2. Not Bragging Enough
Most of us have been taught that bragging or self-promotion is inappropriate and arrogant. In a social setting this may be true,. However in a business setting, self -promotion is an effective way to communicate your value. Many people simply don’t have time for small talk and may not even talk to you unless they know you can be of value to them. Don’t be afraid to let people know about your accomplishments to encourage them to get to know you. You don’t need to be bragging all the time or in an overt or arrogant way, but it is important to let people know that you’re someone that they would benefit from knowing or working with.
3. Not Staying In Touch
It’s not enough to just meet someone once. Building a strong professional network requires building long-term relationships. It’s important to both cast a wide net and build deep relationships. Relationships take time to build, so interacting multiple times is required. Remember to regularly communicate with people in some way. It could be a shared activity or meal, or if you’re both extremely busy, it could just be a short e-mail. Make an effort to periodically find ways you can be helpful to people. Send relevant information such as articles or events that they might find valuable. Offer introductions to people that they would benefit from knowing. I use a tool called followup.cc to send myself reminders to re-connect with people every month or so.
4. Lack of Follow-up
It’s not uncommon for people to miss e-mails, or just get too busy to respond. Following up on an unanswered e-mail is not offensive. It serves as a subtle reminder. Even if the lack of response is unintentional, a follow up e-mail shows that you are serious and committed to developing a business relations. The person you are trying to meet may admire your persistence and be more inclined to respond . You can’t assume that no response means no. If you truly believe the person would benefit from knowing you, have no shame in following up.
5. Spending More Time Networking than Executing
One of the most important principles of building an awesome professional network is to be someone of value. Think of it this way — it would be hard for a great salesman to sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves. If there is no possibility for a mutually beneficial relationship, it will be a challenge to get a meeting. . While it is important to spend time building and maintaining your network, it important to find balance with your other professional responsibilities. If you have a reputation for being productive, people will be eager to meet with you.
Bio: Mike Fishbein is the author of the book “Business Networking: How to Build an Awesome Professional Network” and an entrepreneur in New York City. You can connect with him at www.twitter.com/mfishbein.
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