The year is 2010. I’ve just left my full-time gig to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. At the insistence of my coach, I’ve picked a couple of networking events to attend.
However, I’m pretty sure I don’t need them.
Because I found my coach online, and we didn’t meet in person until we’d been working together for over 6 months. I was convinced that my people would find me the same way.
However, despite my fears and my belief that I didn’t need to network to find clients, I went anyway.
And then the mistakes started. (Can you spot them?)
At one event I stood up, fumbled over my elevator speech, and quickly sat down again. I remember clearly who I sat next to. His name was Mike, and we talked about his young grandkids (he didn’t look old enough to have grandkids).
At another event I spent most of my time talking about what I was really comfortable with: my previous job. I even walked away with a referral for my old company! In retrospect, the leader of that group, Christina, tried to help me out a bit. She asked me questions about my new business and gently offered suggestions about how I might tailor it to the women in the room. But I was too naive to realize she was trying to help (a classic case of really not knowing what I didn’t know).
At one of the events, I met Robin. She sold insurance and reached out to set up a coffee date. I agreed and immediately regretted it. I just knew she was going to try to SELL ME insurance! It was going to feel icky, and I’d want to leave.
I arrived 30 minutes early with a book so I could order and get settled before she arrived. When she got there she asked me a few questions and then proceeded to give me some great advice, make a recommendation for an accountant (who I still happily use), and only much later, tell me more about her business.
There was no hard sell—just her getting to know me better and wanting to help me out a bit.
Now, let’s talk about all of the phone calls I made to the people I was meeting… Oh wait, I can’t, because I didn’t make any phone calls.
And why not? Well, coffee dates are meant for getting to know people so you can refer others to them, right? And I didn’t know anyone. So, why should I spend my time doing that? I didn’t make sense to me.
So what did I do wrong? Let’s (lovingly) review:
- I assumed I didn’t need to network because I believed that all of my clients would find me online.
- I wasn’t comfortable talking about myself, and I wasn’t prepared to share with others what I do.
- I was only clear on what I used to do in my former job.
- I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so much so that I didn’t have a clue what to ask my coach for help with.
- I assumed coffee dates were only for selling your service/product.
- I didn’t do follow-up calls with people I met or set up coffee dates.
- I assumed I had nothing to offer in the way of connections or possible referrals.
Learn from my experience and mistakes.
Over the next few weeks, let’s dive into these mistakes that I (and probably many other people) have made when networking. We’ll explore each one and learn what to do instead so you can make the most of networking.
Share with me some of your networking mistakes in the comments below. I’d love to know that I’m not the only one who made them.