Pitfalls to avoid and positive steps for successful connection-buildingHave you ever wondered why all of those networking groups you’ve become a part of have not delivered any positive results for you or your business? Because we’re Americans, I offer a Top 12 List (an even dozen) of the biggest sales and networking mistakes for your consideration.
Take it from an old silverback who’s had more than his fair share of networking misadventures. I’m going to share my experience, because the more you learn from everyone else’s mistakes, potentially, the fewer you have to make yourself. So here we go…
Top 12 Networking/Soft-Sales Mistakes
12. Missing the Decision Maker
Don’t assume that the boss or anyone’s credentials make them the decision-making powerhouse. The key to a sale is being aware of who’s got the hammer. Inevitably, you are the nail, and knowing who is going to be hitting you (figuratively of course) will enable you to prepare for the type, style, and demeanor of questions and conversation that will be swinging your way. There is no organizational chart for most of the companies or individuals we encounter that can tell you who the “real” decision maker is. The people who are left after all the corporate reorganizations are exercising greater power than ever before and the engaged couples we speak with are don’t always have the final answer. The most important decision maker often can be found behind the most inconsequential or incongruent title or role definition.
11. Being Seen…as Insincere
Don’t ever confuse visibility with credibility. Don’t join any organization, particularly a trade organization, just for the sake of being one of the fray, or solely to advance your own personal and professional interests. Your motives will be painfully obvious, thus causing more damage to your reputation and your company’s image than you might ever be able to recover from. A genuine interest in the others in the organization and a sincere willingness to assist in the advancement of the organization and its goals will undoubtedly add to an already full plate. Believe me: it will come back to you in time.
10. Stealing the Conversational Spotlight
Don’t be a stereotypical American. There’s a global perspective of Americans being identified as people who constantly expect and take a little bit more than they’re entitled to. Believe it or not, the universe does not revolve around you. Make sure your attitude doesn’t come across as such. Be open and giving in all conversations you enter into. It will be noticed and remembered. Ensure that you are asking more questions than you are answering and make sure the questions are valid. Most of all, listen to the answers-I mean really listen.
9. Interpersonal Record-Keeping
Don’t keep a running tally in your mind of what you have asked for and what you’ve delivered, and don’t take more than you’re entitled to. In most cases you should give and give again. Eventually, (once you are accepted and recognized as part of the group) you will have several others giving and giving again to you and they will also be doing the giving without keeping a tally.
8. Answering for Others
Don’t say no for any other person before they have the opportunity to say it themselves. Don’t presume that someone within reach of your network would automatically say no. More often than not, you will not have a clear picture of someone else’s goals or how they intend to achieve them.
7. Lone Ranger Mentality
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you really need it. It’s human nature to want to assist others who clearly need help. People are especially generous with their time, money, and assets when they are familiar with the person in need. The needs can be great or small but without asking or at least making others aware of your plight you will never know if someone could have been of assistance. I suppose if I were asked whether it’s better to err on the side of caution and not risk embarrassment, I’d say, if the stakes are high, I’d risk the “begging factor” and go for it. The worst they can say is still no, but at least you didn’t say it for them.
By the way, this type of situation is only acceptable once you are somewhat established within an organization, due to a variety of other factors. I address these in my soon-to-be-released book It’s Hard to Resist a Soft Sell.
6. Passive Rudeness (Not “Making an Effort”)
Don’t neglect to “dance” with the one who brought you or the one who invited you. When someone in your network comes through for you or at least has brought you into a new group of people, professionals, cohorts, etc., don’t be a stiff. Remember, these people didn’t have to invite you in or extend themselves, their services, or their friendship to you.
And here’s an exceptional tip for you: Be sure to thank the person at the top, the host/hostess-those who have the hammer. Believe it or not, people rarely do this. The thinking is that he, she, or they hear all day long what a super job their company is doing and what a great job they are doing to ensure that success. On the contrary-say thanks and you’ll be remembered.
5. Assuming Too Much
Don’t mistake the company’s or the client’s network for your instantly expanded network. If you’re going to keep your clients, develop new ones, or secure your position within group, your network has to be as good as or better than theirs. You need:
Support and sponsorship within your area of expertise and other areas outside of your area of expertise, so that you’re able to provide information about another company’s services if yours is not the ideal company for the client or if the client requires additional services that you don’t provide;
Lines of communication that tell you what’s happening in other parts of your industry;
A backup strategy in case you are not the client’s initial choice, i.e., an industry network outside of your company including associations and professional groups. Don’t think that anyone else is going to provide you with this information.
4. Sluggish Responses
Don’t be slow to answer any communication with you or your company. There’s a call on your voicemail. You know that it’s a request for help, and that it will take some time and trouble on your part. Don’t ignore it, even if you never expect to have your effort repaid. Maybe no good deed goes unpunished, but no bad one goes unreported. Some of the major reasons network contacts, industry associates, and potential clients don’t hire or work with many companies is their inability to respond to communications in a timely manner. Now, the perception of a “timely manner” really varies from person to person. Just remember; sooner is better.
3. Falling Behind the Times
Don’t become the old and out-of-touch person or company. It probably isn’t just your network of people and clients that’s aging; it’s you. Unless you make a genuine effort to keep updating your technical skills, knowledge, equipment, music, comprehension of current industry trends, and the desires of your target market, your network will shrink and so will your business. Information, trends and styles are changing at a record pace. If you don’t make the effort to remain appraised of the market and stay in tune with your target market, you will be as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
2. Losing the Human Touch
Don’t underestimate the value of the personal touches. Small businesses that survive and prosper know how to network with their customers and prospects by emphasizing a level of personal service and attention that big businesses can’t. If you know who your customers are, then you’ll also know when some of them stop coming by. You can utilize a matrix (described in detail in my new book) that will assist you in determining exactly who your target market is, for better utilization of soft-selling techniques. It’s worth some expense to keep an old customer because it costs so much more to get a new one. Old customers are more likely to make positive referrals and influence the potential client prior to you even knowing of their existence.
1. Missing Opportunities to Improve (or, Wasting Information)
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you don’t know, ask. Even if you do know, ask. The only stupid question is the one that is never asked. Many small business people are afraid to ask questions. The big guys are constantly trying to stay abreast of customer concerns with focus groups and sophisticated monitoring techniques. Draft a questionnaire and put it where customers can pick it up or ensure they receive one or two after you have provided them with your services, or even after they have chosen another company’s services. Other service providers within your industry are also great sources of information. You are their customer in one way or another, so they have a vested interest in your success. You’d be surprised at the wealth of information they have, if you just ask for it.
I’ll bet there’s at least one area mentioned here where you can make some adjustments to positively impact your networking and selling. So, don’t let this opportunity pass you by-start making a change…today!
Filed Under: Business, Issues from 2006
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