Networking remains among the most powerful career enhancement and business bolstering tools known to entrepreneurs. It’s not difficult to understand why.
Think of that old adage, “It’ not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, knowing the “what” (skills, knowledge, experience) is still important. However, what’s really going to make things happen for you is connecting with key people who are in a power position to bolster your effort in a way you can’t accomplish by yourself.
That’s why it is important to develop networking skills. This also means avoiding devastating mistakes that can demolish all the effort you put into this activity.
Many agree the No. 1 mistake in networking is:
If you meet an important person at a seminar, business commerce or even a party, it is essential that you follow up with that person in a day or two with a text message, phone call, email or some other form of communication. Meeting a person via networking is just the first step. If you don’t follow up and ignite the process of building a relationship with that person – that time you spent networking just gets canceled!
Most people have an instinct for sensing a person who is hiding his or her true motivation. When you call up a person and ask for a meeting for the purpose of “just getting to know them” when your real intention is business-related, the phoniness of the situation practically comes with its own smell. Just be upfront in what your intentions are. This also saves time because if someone is not interested in making a business connection with you, they can just say so. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Speaking of being direct and upfront, that does not mean you should try to extract everything you can out of a person right away. If you have yet to establish a relationship, the situation can quickly turn awkward. For example, if you ask to exchange customer data lists, ask for a job or for the number of their No. 1 supplier, that can make your new contact feel uncomfortable.
Don’t put people on the spot, especially during your first formal contact. It’s better to ask open-ended questions that give your contact room to maneuver and consider options.