The next time you're meeting bigwigs at an event, don't blow your opportunity by committing one of these common errors.
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Networking is one of the most powerful tools you can use to grow your company and reputation. But if you do it the wrong way, your would-be professional contacts won't remember you, and may even be offended.
"If you want to network successfully with high-level professionals, you have to inspire them to want to connect with you," Dorie Clark, an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, writes in the Harvard Business Review.
Clark says that networking is a quest to build relationships in a short amount of time. But bad networking will destroy that opportunity before you're able to starting building a connection. Below, read the three mistakes Clark suggests you work on avoiding before you next hand someone your business card.
1. Misjudging the pecking order.
Networking with professional peers is easy, Clark says. If you follow up promptly after your first encounter, connect with them on LinkedIn, and offer to buy them coffee, you're all set. But catching a titan of industry is harder, she writes. When you're trying to network with someone above you in status, you need to act appropriately. "We make mistakes when we fail to grasp the power dynamics of a situation," she writes in HBR. You need to show the other person why you're worth their time. "It would be nice if Richard Branson or Bill Gates wanted to hang out with me 'just because,' but that's unlikely. If I'm going to connect with someone far better known than I am, I need to give them a very good reason," Clark writes.
2. Asking for something right away.
The saying "Ask and you shall receive" doesn't work when you're trying to network with prominent people. It'll actually hurt your chances of building a relationship. "Asking for their time, in and of itself, is an imposition unless you can offer them some benefit up front," Clark writes. The key is to offer the person something first, instead of an afternoon time-suck. Clark cites the example of Debbie Horovitch, a Canadian social media consultant, who was able to build relationships with powerful businessmen like Guy Kawasaki and Mike Michalowicz by inviting them to participate in her Google+ Hangout interviews on how to become a business author. "Instead of asking them for 'an hour of their time' to get advice on writing a book, she exposed them to a broader audience and created content that's permanently available online," Clark writes.
3. Neglecting to state your value proposition.
You want to be upfront, concise, and straightforward with what you are offering the bigwigs. "Top professionals don't have time to weed through all the requests they get to figure out which are dross and which are gold," Clark writes. "You have to be very explicit, very quickly, about how you can help." Offering them a business date "the next time you're around" won't cut it, she says. Be familiar with the person's work and have a carefully thought-out proposition to help them achieve their goals. Pitch a self-created job description--especially one that addresses the person's pain points.
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