A recent email from Len Foley at the Sales Training Institute addresses what he considers the top five networking mistakes made by financial professionals. Regardless of the industry in which you work — or whether you're in between projects — his ideas might be useful.
- Random networking: Wasting time networking in the wrong places and in the wrong way. Start by networking with people you already know. Be VERY selective beyond this group. Only invest time and energy in networking with people or groups who can get you the "ideal" clients you desire. Have a "giving" mindset. Your goal is to build a mutually beneficial business relationship - not add to your business card inventory.
- Networking myopia: A self-limiting view of networking The right way to think about networking is as follows: Networking is building relationships with ANYONE who can help you to grow your practice. Using this definition, you are already networking all the time. When you are working with clients, meeting with your colleagues or mentors at your own firm or attending an alumni event. The key is to recognize that you are constantly network building, inventory & prioritize these business contacts and develop an express action plan to cultivate these relationships.
- Settling for referrals: Getting "cold calls" with a name attached. A referral is defined as a contact telling you to call someone they know and "mention my name" when you call. Now, getting a referral to a potential new client can't hurt, but it is not the best you can do. The person doesn't know you, don't understand why you would be of value to them nor are they prepared for your call. Ask your contact to first call to introduce you to the future client. In this way, they "pre-sell" and endorse you to the prospective client - and prepare them for your call.
- "Solo" networking: Marketing yourself by yourself: Team up with a few like-minded professionals and build your combined relationships. Look to trade and inter-connect your web of relationships together. Add collective value by introducing people to one another - even if there is no direct business benefit to you. Find people with 'power networks" like the head of an associations and go to see them as a team.
- No allies: Settling for "shallow" networking relationships The best business generators look to forge highly committed alliances with FEWER & BETTER referral sources. Build a small, elite team of professionals "business partners". Continually market together on a cooperative business. See your business contacts as "de-facto" partners in growing each other's business.