By William Buist, CEO of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club
Are you getting the most out of your networking? Is it bringing you a steady stream of new business? If not, it’s possible you are making a number of critical mistakes when networking.
There are five key mistakes that many business owners make when networking for their business. He’s witnessed these over many years of being involved in business networks:
1. Pitching to sell
Businesses spend significant amounts of time creating a sales pitch that is compelling and interesting so that a prospect will buy. The networking mistake is to use the same pitch when networking. You’re not selling to your network; you’re teaching your network how to sell for you. So don’t pitch your product, pitch your pitch.
2. Lack of clarity about your target market
Understand who benefits the most from your products and services and then learn to describe them clearly and succinctly – so others understand too.
Seek to help your networking contact recognise potential prospects from within their contacts. The more refined you can be, the more likely they are to think of somebody specific.
Also understand who your networking contact is regularly engaged with. Then explain why what you do and why the products you have serves those people well. Your aim is to encourage them to talk about you at the next available opportunity.
3. Why your knowledge, skills and experience matter
People often talk about having a unique selling proposition but in reality most products and services are not dramatically dissimilar or genuinely unique. Therefore it’s important to highlight why a customer should choose you over your numerous competitors. In general, that comes from who you are and the approach you take.
Nobody else will have had your particular education, the career and experience that you’ve had in business or the skills that you’ve developed to deliver the products that you now sell. Creating a story that highlights those strengths enables your particular implementation to be remembered and retold more easily.
4. It’s not about facts
Facts about your product and service are important but in general raw facts are not remembered, stories are.
Stories with relevance that people can relate to and empathise with, stories that tell others about how their business or personal life has improved by working with you – this is what will get your contacts talking about you.
5. The market doesn’t do what you do in the way that you do it, and that’s important
It’s also important to highlight what the market does in order to position your business within the marketplace. It allows you to tell a further story that reinforces how memorable your networking will be.
For example, your target market may be different, or the subtleties of a service may differ from competitors. Those differences help people make the right choice, your target market chooses you, and so you match their needs better and get better results for them. Your aim should be to help the right people to make the right choice; you.
Remember, your network is not your market.
When you’re networking you’re not selling, you’re teaching; you’re teaching your network how to sell for you, you’re teaching your network what makes you stand out, and you’re teaching your network who is best-suited to your products and services. Ideally you are helping them to identify one or two people for whom a referral would be sensible. At the same time, when you network you should be seeking similar information from your network, asking them specific questions that elicits this information will encourage them to ask you the same.
You get out of your network what you put in. So, if you want others to share their knowledge and refer their contacts to you, it's reasonable to assume that they are looking for the same kindness from you too.