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What’s Wrong With Your Business Networking?

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How many events, mixers, or meetings do you attend? Coffee meetings do you schedule? Phone calls do you make? Emails do you send? LinkedIn messages do you post? Facebook pics do you share? Tweets do you make? Snaps do you chat?

Are you getting everything out of your business networking that you’re putting in?

Probably not.

Here’s why.

  1. Coffee Meetings

Could be over an actual coffee. Or tea. But could also be over dinner. Drinks. In someone’s office. A cigar. Whatever. The point?

You might be setting up meetings prematurely or for the wrong reason.

Is it the same reason the other person is meeting with you? This is important. If you’re focused on selling your services and you’re not speaking with a true prospect (they’re interested in buying), it could be a waste of time. Especially if the other person doesn’t know they’re being viewed as a prospect.

(Related: 5 Business Networking ‘Musts’)

How many of these coffee meetings have you had that produced nothing? Other than coffee.

Qualify your meetings and protect your calendar. Be real clear as to why you want to schedule a meeting. There are only a few reasons. Either you view them as a prospect, they view you as a prospect, you can potentially refer one another, they’re already a customer or client, it’s an interview of some sort, a planning meeting, or social. That’s about it. Just be clear before sending that calendar invite.

  1. Frequency

Frequency as in wavelength (are we on the same wavelength?), not in terms of how often you do something (calling your prospects until they surrender).

Think about dog whistles for a moment. Dog whistles are interesting. They’re used to train dogs (and sometimes cats). You blow the whistle and humans can’t hear (or can barely hear) the high pitched sound. But dogs recognize the pitch and learn very quickly that you want them to do something. Sit, bark, roll over, etc. The sound is projected at a different frequency for dogs than it is for us humans. And it prompts a different reaction.

“Different reaction” is a breakdown when it comes to business networking. Imagine a private equity investor walking up to a business owner at a trade show and talking to them about investing in their company. The equity guy is talking about capital gains, succession planning, and ultimately landing a deal. The business owner just wants to sell more tomatoes through a major distributor. Different frequencies! Same thing if you’re an insurance agent going door to door canvassing a property and casualty policy. Or a mortgage banker pitching a re-finance opportunity at a networking event. This sort of thing happens all the time. Similar to not hearing the dog whistle you’ll also never hear from that business owner again.

You must develop enough of a connection so you’re on the same or at least a similar frequency with those you meet or it’s over before it even starts. Other than getting a great intro, the next best way to address the frequency thing is to ask great questions about them. Once you feel that the conversation is at least close to even footing, look for ways to collaborate. How can we help one other? Refer one another? Be resources to one another?

If you can’t speak to people and adjust your frequency, you might as well be selling dog whistles.

  1. Following Up

Stacks of business cards in a snarl of rubber bands on your desk. And not knowing what to do with them. Sound familiar? Do you follow up in a timely way? Or at all? Best to do this within 24 hours, the next business day, or when you both decide makes the most sense.

In fact, if there is a good reason to follow up with a contact you’ve met, if you can, set the wheels in motion right then.

It would be great to continue our discussion and explore ways of helping each other. When would be the best time to do that? Would you be open to scheduling a follow up call in our calendar now? Be careful. Remember frequency? Better frequency equals better follow up.

So make sure you’re on a similar wavelength before being presumptuous enough to compare calendars. Keep in mind that the best follow up always happens when the process begins when you’re still face to face. Not when you’re back at the office staring at a business card wondering why the hell this yellow and green card is in your hand. Lack of follow up or bad follow up results in your networking becoming a waste time.

  1. Staying in Touch

Social media isn’t enough! The fact that you post a cutesy picture of your dog everyday does not count as staying in touch.

A monthly phone call or personalized email. A handwritten card. An invite to grab a meal when you’re in town. How about those you should be inviting as guests to a networking event?

Try this! Organize a group meeting every month or every quarter. Invite the most important people in your world as appropriate. Make sure the meeting has food (coffee and bagels in the morning will do). This doesn’t have to be an expensive venture. By creating a regular event establishes something to invite people to.

The meeting must be a value add — networking meeting, guest speaker, best practices, or mastermind.

If you’re meeting is not valuable, your attendees will stop being attendees. And now we’re back at dog whistle.

What aspects of your business networking are not-working?

— Read 7 Business Networking Reminderson ThinkAdvisor.

Michael Goldberg (Photo: MG)

Michael Goldberg is a speaker, consultant, and the founder of Knock Out Networking. He’s also the author of “Knock-Out Networking!”