I know, before I start that there will be those of you reading this who do not agree with me on my definition of business networking crimes
Indeed the amount of people who I have met at other business networking events who will see this as the “to do” list still surprises me. It certainly feels that way at times to me. Before I start my lament, let me first say that in all of my previous roles in banking, nursing, catering management and counselling, it was an essential part of the role to build rapport with clients/customers. Clearly this is not as appropriate when I used to meet people in the A&E department who were on death’s door, but for at least 99% of first encounters, it is a good idea to get to know someone a little before you even attempt to do anything else.
My experiences of business networking in London and Hertfordshire shocked me
So, I have listed the 5 things that pretty much guarantee that no business will ever be done with me if you do happen to meet me in a business networking event.
1. Start the conversation with “What do you do?”
This one rankles the most. People who do not even want to know my name before they qualify what I do, and thus whether I will be worth them talking to. I’ve been told that I’m a fairly good conversationalist, but it appears that the art of conversation to build rapport before trying to sell is a dwindling art in some circles. So, to amuse myself I have created a repertoire of ambiguous statements to confuse these people, who I already assume I’ll not be doing any further business with. “I’m here doing community service,” is one that brings me particular amusement. “I teach people how to talk properly to each other at networking events,” is one I’ve turned around a few conversations with. “My agent sent me here as a punishment for not doing the Royal Variety Performance last year.” You get the picture!
Solution: Start all networking encounters with the intention to get to know the person, before getting to know their business. Starting a conversation by asking what the person’s name is, is infinitely better than asking what they do to kick things off.
2. Answer your phone mid-conversation
This irritates me. I have travelled into London to be face to face with you, and you give your phone priority. This goes beyond rude in my world and can guarantee that you will never get a single lead from me if you do it. Because if I was to recommend you and sent my best contacts to you, and you did this, I would get to hear about it and would be asked why I wasted their time.
If someone travels in to meet you, leave your phone alone! I cannot emphasise this enough. If you can’t leave your phone alone for at least an hour, I strongly recommend that you do not go networking for your business or keep your networking on-line. Most phone calls are not an emergency and can wait…because if they don’t then they will probably cost you business, relationships, and your reputation.
I get to hear all about it from my network members when people are foolish enough to prioritise their phone over the person who has travelled into town to be face to face with them.
Solution: Put your ****** phone away if you are business networking!
3. Measure your networking experience by the number of cards you give out and collect
Unless you intend to do a meaningful follow up with all of the people that you share cards with, I have found that focusing on just a few people during a networking event is a much better strategy, which builds stronger relationships in the long-term. After all, the point of business networking is to keep doing it. It’s a bit like taking a shower. If you stop doing it, the effects are less evident.
Solution: Focus on the 2-3 people that you resonate with the most and look to build a relationship with them based on common interests.
4. Talk continuously about your business for as long as you can without allowing anyone else to speak or even ask questions
I’ve seen it happen all too many times. I ask one question and some people see this as carte blanche to talk for as long as they like about their business, way past my capacity to be interested in it, or them. Communication needs to be dynamic in a business networking environment. This means: a chance for all people to speak/interact. Those who hijack a conversation with rambling nonsense that way exceeds people’s capacity to be even remotely interested will soon find themselves about as welcome as a tsunami.
Solution: Be interested in what other people have to say, and ask them questions. This is especially important if you have already had the chance to tell them about your business or yourself. Do not confuse good listeners with people who are interested in someone who shows no interest in anyone but themself.
5. Think that if someone is in a business that does not relate to yours that they are no use to you in a business networking environment
In its most extreme form, I have watched people walk around the room looking at people’s badges as a pre-qualification of whether they even say hello. I hear this so many times “they are no use to me”. I find this incredible and ridiculously shallow. Business networking is not just about what a person does, it’s about who they are, and who they know. I’ve had some of the best business and friend connections ever by the least likely of people, many of whom I have never done any business with. We just got on, liked each other and invite each other to social events occasionally.
Solution: Go into business networking with the intention of making friends first, and do not even think about pitching your business to anyone, unless they ask you. If they do ask you, keep it brief and be sure you show at least as much interest in them. Not just what they do, but who they are, what they like, what football team they support, where they went on holiday this year, how many kids they have…..and the list goes on.
Because when people are like each other, they like each other. Liking someone is the foundation of trust, and trust doesn’t just build relationships….it also builds friendships. To see how this works, why not come along to one of my business networking events, where for 1 hour you will not get to talk about your business or use your phone!
You can sign up for invites and networking tips here http://www.adamshaw.co/about/business-events/ And see the next ones here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/adam-shaw-8068158518