The potential upside of business networking makes it an attractive activity for the owners of small- and medium-sized businesses.
With a little luck, an effective networker can forge valuable relationships with industry players, vendors, and prospective clients.
But like everything else in business, successful business networking takes hard work and planning – as well as the common sense to avoid a handful of common networking mistakes and pitfalls.
Common Business Networking Mistakes
Here's a list of six business networking mistakes you'll want to avoid.
- #1 Thinking it's all about you. If your sole motivation for networking is to advance you and your business, don't bother. Effective networking is a two-way street, a system of mutually beneficial relationships in which you will sometimes be called upon to assist contacts when there is nothing in it for you.
- #2 Choosing the wrong networking events. Be selective about the networking events you attend. Network events that are incapable of helping you achieve your goals eliminate the possibility of mutually beneficial relationships and are a waste of time.
- #3 Going negative. Negative, critical attitudes have no place in networking. Don't use your contacts as listening boards for the airing of personal grievances about other contacts and business leaders. That kind of behavior only makes you look petty and ruins any possibility of developing worthwhile networking relationships.
- #4 Asking for favors. If you want to scare off potentially valuable business contacts, ask for favors right out of the gate. In some ways, business networking is like dating – asking for too much commitment too soon usually leads to a premature termination of the relationship.
- #5 Being a bad listener. When you are meeting with a business contact, give him your full and undivided attention. Checking email on your Blackberry sends the wrong signal and handicaps your ability to gather important information about the contact.
- #6 Lack of adequate follow-up. Networking efforts usually fail because there is no follow up after the initial point of contact. Networking is about forging lasting business relationships – and that won't happen if you never act on the names and business cards you collect at networking events.