A great network is the foundation of every successful entrepreneurial career.
As tempting as it sounds (especially for introverts) big business wins don’t happen from years of slaving alone in your basement. A bit of that is always required but as always, it’s about who you know.
To cut the preamble short: This quick-and-dirty article breaks down the seven most deadly networking mistakes I see all sorts of (otherwise smart) entrepreneurs making.
Since you know who’s blog you’re reading, I barely need to tell you that these are so counter intuitive you might actually hear other “experts” giving contradictory advice.
Only amateurs do the following…
1. Go to “Networking Events”
Don’t do it.
Something so counter-intuitive has never been so true. Networking events are usually full of desperate newbies who’ve been told they need to network to grow their business.
Everyone in the room is looking for sales leads. By default, they’re not looking to buy. Or help. You see the problem?
2. Network for Direct Sales
If your business model requires you to personally go fishing for prospects, we need to have a chat about “scale” and your business model. Hint: It’s broken. It’s also icky.
Chances are you’re rocking a model that will reward success with increasing hard work, which can only ever result in a burn out. There are a tiny few exceptions to this rule, especially in cases where the entrepreneur is networking with extraordinarily wealthy people to sell extremely high margin products. In other words, if it’s worth it and you can do it with integrity you’re in the 1% of people who can violate this rule quite successfully.
3. Network without a clear outcome in mind.
Networking is for these purposes: Forging powerful partnerships, finding amazing staff, raising capital, connecting with mentors, whatever. Not Sales (see #2).
Having a clear idea of what you’re after is key to finding it. Psychologically, metaphysically and conversationally. If you’re lucky enough to connect with someone who digs your vibe and really wants to help you, being able to articulate what you’re looking for is critical.
Know your ideal outcome before you engage in your networking experience (conference, party, meet up) and then dive in and forget about it. The forgetting is to avoid mistake #4
4. Cling to your goal like a needy loser
You’re networking, which means that you’re making friends with business people.
If you are focused only on your own needs, you are going to come across as a total asshole. In fact, you are being a total asshole.
Having clarity about what you want is important but once you engage in conversation, just relax. Go with the flow and focus on the other person. What can you do for them?
#5 details more of this mistake in action…
5. Treat networking as anything other than making friends
Too many people screw this up.
Real networking, with the real mega successful people, is just hanging out. It’s chilling. It’s certainly not some kind of speed dating “what-can-you-do-for-me?” type game.
Networking is making friends. High level entrepreneurs find hanging out with like minded people to be both a rare and very rewarding experience. So do that. Just hang.
Most entrepreneurial friendships won’t turn into business relationships without multiple points of contact. In other words, you need to make friends for real. To do that, you need to avoid mistake number six…
6. Be boring
Nobody is born boring but quite a few people grow into it.
Here’s a secret to “making friends with successful entrepreneurs” as described above: Get a hobby.
Mega successful entrepreneurs don’t really spend all day talking about marketing tactics and staff management. They’re passionate people, and that passion bleeds over into other spheres of life.
If you cultivate a passion for something, the mega successful will recognize your winning enthusiasm. Plus, you have something refreshing to talk about. Plus, you’ll get invited on trips/experiences to do your hobby with some extraordinary people.
Just don’t get too caught up in your hobby that you screw up #7…
7. Be uninterested in your own work
Do not engage in networking when you’re not interested in your own work. It’s biggest disaster of them all.
Always be working on an interesting project. You don’t have to have completed it yet or hit a home run. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be directly related to your core business model. Just be working on something. It gives you a reason to talk, ask questions and pick the brains of smart people (which they love). It’ll give you something in common with other entrepreneurs who’ve worked in related fields.
At the highest level networking event I’ve ever attended, I dined with a couple of household name entrepreneurs who were all captivated by a 22 year old kid at the table. He had done nothing but spend the last year interviewing the world’s top neuroscientists. He stole the evening and everyone’s attention. Collected a few business cards too.
Have an interesting project to talk about.
Networking is vastly misunderstood by most entrepreneurs.
It’s really about forming strong friendships with like minded business owners. It’s about building an exponentially vast network of trusted relationships that can be counted on to provide advice and key partnerships when needed.
Everything works in both directions.
Even if you feel like you have nothing to offer and desperately want something from everyone you meet, you must find a way to help others. Helping people to succeed is all that matters. This isn’t a numbered piece of advice, because it should be as obvious as a slap to the face.
The more people you aid and elevate through the network you create, the more successful you’ll be.
Got a question or know of another mistake that you’ve seen people make? Leave a comment and let other readers and I know!