Every lawyer, accountant, and consultant knows networking is an essential component for career success; they invest time and effort building their list of contacts and developing the relationships with people as they know it’s key to business growth. Although like many smart, talented people, they know just how essential it is to execute networking properly, they are also prone to making a variety of counterproductive networking mistakes. Mistakes that prevent them from making strong connections. So what barriers do professionals tend to face when it comes to networking effectively? And also, should business networking online be part of a credible professional’s business development plan? What are the biggest networking mistakes that they make? Here are the 6 greatest barriers/mistakes that are made by many.
Biggest networking mistakes
#1 – being self-consumed
One of the greatest barriers for professionals (when it comes to networking) is that they tend to neglect the other person entirely. Not intentionally by no means; they are just so worried about self-promotion and elevator pitches that they end up doing more of the talking. What this results in, however, is that person just tuning them out.
So how can you overcome this barrier? As counterintuitive as it may sound, the best way to avoid this mistake is to focus on the other person. Ask them questions about them, get them talking, and listen. Networking should be a two-way dialogue, so focus on letting them hold the mic for a while and eventually, it will come back your way. Remember that less is more, so if you talk less and show a genuine interest in what they are saying, you, in turn, will become far more interesting.
Read: How to successfully approach prospects on LinkedIn and get a dialogue going
#2 – thinking that networking is about selling
Effective business networking (see Chapter 1 of The FT Guide To Business Networking) is the process of finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. As you can see, it’s about anything but selling – so why is it then that this ‘selling mindset’ is one of the biggest networking mistakes that professionals make?
Lawyers, accountants, and consultants are pressed for time so it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to get the most from your networking efforts. It can be really easy to just pitch your sale right off the bat without taking the time to get to know your contact, but you shouldn’t. This is doing more damage than good.
To overcome this barrier to effective networking, you need to stop thinking about what you can get from others and start thinking about what you can give them. What services or support can you provide them that will make their life easier or solve a specific pain point for them? If you don’t know this then you need to take the time to get to know them.
Read: 8 tips to help you spend less time networking but more time winning business
#3 – avoiding business networking online (i.e. via social networking sites)
For a long time, many professionals have insisted that business networking online doesn’t work, that it’s impossible to build a relationship virtually, and that it will never be better than a face-to-face meeting. As you can guess, this is a pretty big mistake that they are making, a mistake that is costing them networking opportunities.
Not only are these statements false, we now find ourselves in a position where face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, at least not for the foreseeable future, so how can you overcome this barrier to utilising business networking online?
Firstly, you need to see the benefits of social networking: it’s 24/7 and you can easily find and stay in touch with people. Secondly, although it takes longer to build up trust online, you need to put in the effort. With a large majority of people still working remotely and the prospect of large networking events not looking good for the rest of 2020, everyone is needing to embrace business networking online. Or risk losing profile and visibility to the people who matter.
One of the major business networking online sites is LinkedIn. It is literally the social media network most likely to have the decision makers you want to meet on it. And if this isn’t within your networking activities, then this is a big networking mistake…
This is part of a video I did to help accountants, lawyers and consultants use LinkedIn within their business development activities. The full video is within the Progress To Partner Membership site.
#4 – asking for too much too soon
Many professionals only tend to network when they need something: a favour, an introduction or a referral. What tends to happen though, when you do this before the relationship is fully established, is that you’re setting yourself up for a refusal. Not only that, but asking for too much too soon is also a relationship killer.
So just don’t do this okay? This is one of the biggest networking mistakes that people make time and time again and it creates a pretty impenetrable barrier to networking effectively moving forward; it turns people off immediately and gives you a bad name. There’s an art and science to asking (and actually getting) what you want when it comes to networking and it’s not going in guns blazing. Favours require that people know, like and trust you, and that takes time.
#5 – failing to keep in touch and nurture the relationship
Another classic when it comes to the biggest networking mistakes is not following up and failing to keep in touch. This is an easy trap to fall into (as we are all busy people), but it’s essential if you want to develop relationships, ones that will lead to opportunities.
So how can you avoid this mistake? How can you keep on top of that all-important keeping-in-touch bit of networking? In short, schedule it into your calendar. Whether it’s biweekly or once a month, set yourself a reminder to send out a brief (but useful), personalised email that’s aimed at just keeping in touch. A simple email with a blog post attached could result in several good conversations and even a few leads!
When developing relationships, the key is to find ways to continue to connect so that you may be able to help each other in the future. Networking is about give and take, and when you go the extra mile for someone they may be more willing to reciprocate when you’re the one asking for a favour or a referral.
A great to stay in touch with people is to use our tried and tested networking plan. (Email required)
For many professionals in practice, the problem is about getting time to remember to stay in touch. This short video will give you some great advice on how to always find the time to stay in touch with your network. The whole video is within the Progress To Partner Membership Site.
#6 – trying to be all things to all people
We all know that the Jack of all trades is the master of none, so why do many professionals keep trying to be all things to all people? All this does is paint you as a ‘non-expert.’ It makes you very ‘vanilla’ to your network and actually drives them towards your competition (or the people who are positioning themselves as the ‘master’ for the service that they are looking for). You may like to use our niche worksheet to help you identify your own niche, so you don’t come across as all things to all people. (And therefore, reduce your chances of winning work via your network.)
If you want to avoid this networking mistake, put aside the fear of missing out and choose your niche. Own it and advertise it and go after the audience that you actually want. The clearer you can be about what you’re looking for, the easier it is for your network to help you find those opportunities. Ultimately you want to be memorable by being very specific about who are your ideal clients and customers are and how you help or bring value to them. For example, our core client base is accountants, lawyers and consultants in regional to large international firms wanting to make it to partner. And then when they get there, stay there.
The first module in the Go-To Expert course within the Progress To Partner membership site takes you through a proven process to help find your niche. Or in other words, how to stand out from your peers and competitors, so that you get the referral.
Adopt a “give first” mentality
The best way to avoid most of these biggest networking mistakes is to think about the other person you are trying to develop a relationship with. How can you help them? How can you bring value to them or make their life easier? If you adopt a ‘give first’ mentality, you’ll soon see that the time and effort you put into to your networking will be rewarded. People are far more likely and willing to help you if you’ve been loyal and helpful to them, so remember that.
If you build and nurture your network with the right people, AND have the right conversations with the right people, AND avoid these 6 biggest networking mistakes…business will flow.