Most of my client work, even with my corporate clients, happens on the phone. I rarely go out for work—for my personal life, sure, but not for work— and I can’t remember the last time I went to a business networking event. Why? Three reasons:
- Most of the people I network with are scattered globally.
- I have very little time outside of my client work and writing to go to networking events.
- Most people do business networking wrong. And it drives me bananas.
You, there. Yes, you. You’re probably doing your business networking wrong.
How do I know? I know you’re probably networking wrong because most people do it wrong. Most people literally have no idea how to network the right way—and by the “right way” I mean, “the way that gets results.” And by “the way that gets results,” I mean, “the way that builds relationships with other people in a way that ultimately, in the long term, helps you to grow your business.”
So how do I know you’re doing it wrong? I don’t know if you personally are doing it wrong, I just know the odds. So to help you figure it out, I’ve put together this handy list of seven warning signs. If any of them applies to you, you’re doing it wrong and it’s time to evolve.
Warning Sign #1: When you go to networking events, you run out of business cards.
Big warning sign. If you run out of business cards, that means you probably spent the entire time handing them out. Guess what? You just contributed to several recycling bins. Most people come home from networking events and can’t remember why they have all the business cards they have, so they throw them away. And if you’re giving out so many cards that you run out, you probably didn’t spend much time talking to anyone, and that tells me that you’ve been networking all wrong.
When you network, take your time. You don’t have to give cards to everyone you meet. Networking isn’t a race and you don’t win by running out of cards. You win by slowing down, taking your time, and only giving out your card when the time is right.
Warning Sign #2: You think of business networking as “networking.”
If you think of networking as “networking,” then you’re probably spending every networking moment in “business mode.” That means you’re looking at everyone as a “prospect” or a “lead,” and you’ve forgotten the most important thing: these are people. All the people in the room with you at that networking event? Yeah, they’re people. Human beings. With lives and problems and families and hobbies and interesting stories to tell. Instead of thinking of networking as “networking,” think of it as a giant opportunity to meet people and to get to know them. Relax. You don’t have to be so serious and you don’t have to impress. Just be yourself and remember that you’re just like all those other people in the room.
Warning Sign #3: You talk about yourself. A lot.
This is a big warning sign. Talk about yourself a lot, do you? B-o-o-o-ring. And also, gross. Because if you focus on trying to impress me, you’ll likely show me how unimpressive you are. The people who have the most going on have the least need to impress others. Instead, you’ll find us listening more than talking. Know what happens when you listen? You learn. You learn a lot about the person standing in front of you. You learn what makes them tick, you learn what they fear, you learn how their business is doing, how their family is doing…you learn who they are.
If you find yourself back at home after a networking event, looking at a stack of business cards that you’ve collected and you can’t remember what a single person looked like, this is your warning sign. You talked too much and listened too little. Next time, try keeping your trap shut for awhile and see what happens.