Business networking should go beyond cultivating potential customers.
Keeping up to date on industry or sector developments, exchanging ideas or brainstorming challenges with others in your field, and finding opportunities for collaboration are just some of the benefits of networking. Other times, it’s just the pleasure of a stimulating conversation.
However, networking is often seen as self-serving, transactional and awkward. Perhaps that’s because some people approach it in the wrong way, giving the process a bad name. Here are some identifiable culprits:
1. The Taker. Networking is about cultivating sustainable, mutually beneficial business connections. Yet some think it’s all about them—a “What’s in it for me?” approach rather than “How can I help you?” To whom can you introduce them, and how can you help them? There is little thought about how they might return the favor.
2. The Over-the-Shoulder Glancer. You think you’re having an interesting, enjoyable conversation, but before you know it, you notice that their focus has veered over your shoulder to hunt for someone more important, more useful, more interesting. Then you ask a question, and it’s clear this person hasn’t been listening to you.
3. The Escape Artist. Cousin to the OTS Glancer, this one finds out quickly what you do, realizes there is no potential and closes down the conversation. The goal of networking is to make purposeful connections, but you never know where a conversation might lead. People move on, have their own networks or might have a creative approach to a challenge you are facing. Rudeness aside, they could be missing out on an opportunity.
4. The Monopolizer. On the other hand, you get hemmed in by someone who just won’t let you go, despite your best exit strategies. If you do pry yourself loose, they hunt you down so that they can “continue the conversation.”
5. The Quantity-Not-Quality Type. This one tells you they have a quota for how many business cards they can collect in an evening or brags about how many connections they have on LinkedIn. They have lost sight of the need to form meaningful connections.
6. The Copy-and-Paste Maven. A well-practiced elevator pitch or a carefully crafted follow-up email are useful tools, but a templated approach conveys that you’re talking to me not as a person but as a prospect. It’s hard to feel special when you hear someone having the exact same conversation they had with you, repeated several times over.
Watch out for these types—and try not to commit any of these sins yourself.