I have been in direct sales for the last two years. Prior to that I had no experience or knowledge of selling and yet joined a social selling company. While setting up my new business, I moved home five times in 18 months, so I needed to network a lot to get my business known and off the ground.
As I learnt to network successfully I can fairly confidently say that I probably made every mistake in the book and have lost customers, sales and even damaged my reputation with some people.
So, let me share with you my seven ways to get business networking really wrong – so you can avoid making the mistakes I did.
1. Not practising your pitch
“Hello, my name is.…” We’ve all listened to a boring, mumbling pitch that goes on and on and never actually gets to the point or explains what someone does!
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.
Once you have a good pitch, work on varying it so that you’re giving a slightly different pitch each time.
2. Not being interested in them
Networking is not about selling. It’s about building relationships and finding out how you can support 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.
3. Sharing your woes
Let’s face it, your networking colleagues are just not interested in your problems and negativity. No one wants to hear that your business is struggling – and no one wants to buy from a struggling business.
However, do let them get to know you, share your vulnerability and lessons you’ve learned along the way, and ask for advice, as these will help you become relatable and build connection.
4. Underselling yourself
Unfortunately, lots of people will try and get you to discount or give away your product/service for free. Especially those who run small businesses themselves and should know better. Don’t take it personally. It’s human nature.
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.
5. Being pushy
There’s a fine line between passion and pushiness. 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.
Remember, your product/service isn’t going to be for everyone and that’s ok, so know when to walk away. But, always keep the door open for them to approach you again in the future when the time is right for them, or for them to be able to refer you to others they may know.
6. Not following up
Let’s face facts, unless you’ve got something they are looking for at that exact moment in time, it’s unlikely they will bother to get in touch with you. So, it’s up to you to contact them the day 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.”
7. Giving 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, remember: be authentic; relationships first, business second; and go above and beyond.
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