Sales & Marketing

Why you suck at networking - and what to do about it

3 min read

16 September 2013

You’re leaving the local business club or networking event and once again you’ve got no leads or useful contacts. However, you know that you were charming and interesting and your business pitch was flawless – so where are you going wrong?

Simply put, no matter how life-changing your products and services are, or how well you sell them, if you’re continually making more than one of the common mistakes below, chances are you won’t get very far at all. 

Here are five top tips on how to improve your networking skills. 

1. DON’T think it’s all about the hard-sell

A commonly made mistake is attending networking events with only the hard sell in mind. Don’t do this – go with the idea of building relationships and trust. Sell yourself as a genuine friend with an interest in not only people’s propositions, but their lives too. This makes for a more relaxed conversation and will build the foundations of trust. People who trust you will become signposts for your business, recommending you to associates and friends. 

2. DON’T leave the blinkers on

Listen to what others are offering and you may find it useful to your own company. You might even be able to recommend them to others, give them advice or share your knowledge. Likewise, don’t pre-judge people based on their sector, age, experience or job title – you don’t know their background or contacts, which could be of great value to you. 

3. DO arrange to meet

If you’ve met somebody at an event and you have mutual interests, don’t just take their card or give them yours and assume something will come of it. Organise a follow up meeting, one on one, before you leave. This way, you can discuss a time and place for a meeting or organise a time to call when it’s convenient for them. On their business card, write down the day that you say you’re going to call, and that way they can expect to hear from you and won’t feel pestered when they do. 

4. DON’T spread yourself too thinly

By attending every single networking event in your area you’ll be meeting many but leaving a lasting impression on none. Choose one or two regular meetings that suit you and stick to them. This way, you can be sure of people remembering you and thinking about you when an associate mentions a need for similar services to yours.

5. DO pre-prepare and take it seriously

Treat networking with the same importance as any other business meeting. If appropriate, speak to the hosts and explain what kind of person you’re looking to meet or do business with. They may know somebody that they can invite and introduce you to. Likewise, let yourself be introduced to those who want to meet you. And remember, that 30-second introduction can make all the difference between someone being bored or interested, so get straight to the point.

Helen Bennett is the owner of The Business Network, a UK-wide networking franchise.