1. You must attend as many of your group’s small business networking events as possible….PERIOD! It’s your opportunity to interact and get to know fellow members on a regular basis. Over time, it gives you a chance to demonstrate your character and competence. And your consistent attendance shows all that you are accountable. Tip: Mark all future dates in your calendar and assign them the importance they deserve.
2. Leave your business cards and your game face at the door. When joining a small business networking group, the biggest mistake a new networker can make is to dive in and hurriedly begin handing out business cards and “pitching” everyone they meet. This isn’t a short term solution so don’t try to build Rome in a day. Relax and remember, The time to pull out a card is when they ask for one.
3. Define your Unique Selling Position or USP. Before attending your first event, put together a short (30 seconds or less) description of what you do and what makes your business different. Members need to understand what you do in order to pass business your way. Be forewarned....if you talk to long or in too much detail they will tune you out and either not hear what you say or forget parts of it immediately. Humor is good but use it sparingly.
4. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Be interested in the other members and they will be interested in you. If you are talking non-stop about how great you are and not giving them a chance to do the same they will know you’re either an inexperienced networker or only there to promote your business. Networking is about relationships, getting to know people and asking the right questions so you know how you might be able to help each other. A rule of thumb to follow is....if you are talking more than 30 seconds about yourself without asking a question you’re pitching.
5. Follow up in business networking isn't just necessary. It’s vital! Not following up promptly with someone you met and had a conversation with at a networking event is high on the list of worst networking errors. It screams that you were either not impressed. Not interested or just plain sloppy. It's not only a mistake. It’s also counterproductive. You're better off NOT networking at all if you are networking but not following up with the people you meet.