By Suzi Fish, Toastmasters International.
Many entrepreneurs rightly see networking as a vital part of business-building – but of course, we sometimes get it wrong!
When I started my own business I knew I’d need to maximize my networking in order to achieve the growth I needed. In the process I made mistakes that I’ve learned from. Let me share the hard-won lessons with you!
Failing to practice your pitch:
A pitch that goes on and on will bore you listener and lose them.
Work on a snappy pitch that describes what you do and what you offer, in 10 words or less. Add a personal relatable story about how what you do has made a difference for someone, and what you are looking for from your networking colleagues. Your aim is to grab their interest and encourage them to want to approach you to know more, and for them to know who they can refer to you.
Get feedback beforehand on your content and delivery from colleagues you trust, and practice, practice, practice to ensure you don’t overrun the time you are given.
Failing to rein in your pushiness:
The line between passion and pushiness is a fine one. Listen to others, be polite, friendly, approachable, and do share your passion because people will buy into that. Avoid being evangelical and desperate as this definitely turn people off.
Underselling yourself and your business:
Unfortunately, lots of people will try and get you to discount or give away your product/service for free.
Counter this by researching the market rate, knowing your value and what added value you bring, and respecting yourself. Stick to your guns regarding price, and they will appreciate you. If they don’t, move on and find someone who does – don’t compromise on your worth.
Sharing your negativity:
It’s important to accept that your networking colleagues are simply not interested in your business problems. No one wants to hear that your business is struggling – and no one wants to buy from a struggling business.
Not showing interest in others:
When you approach other networkers, show genuine interest in them and what they do before even mentioning what you do. Ask after them, find out what they are up to, how you can help them…. And then, by remembering little details they’ve told you, like a pitch they’ve gone for, or where they’ve been on holiday, and mentioning it the next time you’re in contact, or even sending them a Facebook or LinkedIn message on their birthday, you build rapport and connection. Because without connection, they will quite simply never buy from you or refer you. It takes time – but the payoff makes it worthwhile.
On the other hand, do share the lessons you’ve learned along the way, and ask for advice, as this will help you become relatable and build connection.
Failing to follow up:
It’s up to you to make contact after connecting, and arrange a coffee and chat to get to know each other better and discover how you can support one other.
Connections are made at the network meeting, relationships are built outside of it. Get their permission to go on your mailing list, invite them into your Facebook group, connect with them on LinkedIn. These are all ways for them to remember you and for you to remain at the forefront of their mind when they are ready to buy your product/service or refer you. Remember, “the fortune’s in the follow up.”
Delivering an average service:
There’s probably lots of people or companies doing what you do, so why should they buy from you and not your competitor? What differentiates you from everyone else out there? What’s your unique selling point (USP)? What makes you stand out from the crowd? Alongside building relationships, you need to go above and beyond with your customer service and deliver real value. This will make you memorable. And don’t be afraid to ask them for a testimonial for your website and at the next networking meeting!
In summary: putting relationships first and business second will help you make the most of your long-term networking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sue Fish is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.