Guest post by Sue Fish, Toastmasters International
If you are running a small business then networking can be a very cost-effective way of generating new sales and finding new clients.
However, in my experience far too many people get it wrong and do their business more harm than good.
So, let me share with you seven classic mistakes I have seen mumpreneurs make at business networking events – so you can avoid making the same mistakes!
- Mumble, mumble, mumble
At some of the female networking groups I go to, it is unfortunately common for women to mumble, address the floor rather than the audience, speak so quietly you can’t hear them etc. Far too often I have no idea what someone’s name is, the name of their business or what they do – it is such a missed opportunity.
My recommendation is to stand up as this helps to project your voice, and to look at people around the room, not just one person! If you feel uncomfortable at doing this then look at their foreheads rather than their eyes as its less intimidating! Practice in front of a mirror or another person, and ask for feedback from someone you trust.
- Bringing your kids to work:
I have been to several networking groups where mothers have bought their very young children along – and this has created a barrier. Their attention is too often diverted onto their children rather than listening and connecting with others which leads to them not taking full advantage of the opportunities in the room. And rightly, or wrongly, people are less likely to take you seriously as a business person if you have your children with you.
- Not being interested:
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 and how you can help them. This will help you to 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.
- Sharing your problems:
Let’s face it, your networking colleagues are just not interested in your problems and negativity.
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.
- Compromising on your worth:
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.
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.
- Pushy, 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.
- Being average:
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!
- No follow up:
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.”
By avoiding the classic mistakes above you can ensure that your networking works for you – not against you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sue Fish is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.