Professionals of all industries are out there hustling trying to make new connections and once made capitalize on those connections. Problem is the majority of said professionals are just spinning their wheels, not making solid connections, or once made not cultivating them correctly.
Let’s try and remedy that! Here are my top ten (10) professional networking pitfalls to avoid when building your professional contact list.
- Do not go for the jugular: This is a sign of a desperate professional. When you first meet a new connection, ‘DO NOT SELL’ anything. Even if asked turn the conversation back to the connection you are making. No one even if they ask, want to be ‘sold to’ when they first meet someone new.
- KISS: Keep It Short & Sweet (yes, there are a few more variations of this acronym). Know who you are and what you offer. When asked about yourself, keep it short and sweet, then turn it back to them. People love to talk about themselves and will remember you more if you do not dominate the conversation.
- Be Prepared: Have a pen, extra business cards, and most importantly know your schedule. When making a connection if done right they will want to meet again. Initiate a follow-up meeting – this is where the magic happens! But, if you do not know your schedule and respond with, “I’ll call you when I am in front of my calendar”… be prepared for a game of phone tag.
- Avoid the obvious: Have a plethora of current topics you can engage your new connection with. Hint – the weather is not one of them unless you are at a Meteorological Society convention.
- Rotate your thinking: To be successful, it’s important to know what you want and to be able to articulate how you can help others solve problems with your services in a way that is educational and not as a solicitation.
- Make it easy: Your connections are busy—aren’t we all? It’s up to you to make it easy for them to stay in touch with you. Hint – do not offer an email address if you do not check it often.
- Stranger Danger. Even though our social networks allow easy access to distant contacts of contacts, you should focus your interactions on contacts who know you well. Unless a connection is very close to you, or you have a warm introduction from a first level connection, don’t bog them down with numerous requests.
- Be Patient: Making a solid connection that will reap you numerous rewards takes time and sincerity. Hint – try to help them first before asking for something you need.
- 5-4-3-2-1: Amplify your efforts every week by practicing the 5,4,3,2,1 technique. Send 5 thank-yous, schedule 4 catch-ups, make 3 recommendations, offer 2 referrals, & write 1 hand-written note. Training yourself to be a giver will help you more than I can describe in your quest for creating valuable connections.
- Track and Follow up. No one likes to feel used; be sure to follow up with contacts who help you and let them know you appreciate their efforts. Send a handwritten note to follow up after a meetup. Send quick postcards with written links to articles they may appreciate, and touch base even when you don’t need anything.
When you start to treat making connections as one of the most valuable parts of a business, you’ll create relationships that extend beyond your immediate business needs.