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5 Most Common Networking Mistakes Here's what NOT to do when networking.

By Brian Hilliard

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Caiaimage | Martin Barraud | Getty Images

The following excerpt is from Ivan Misner, Ph.D. and Brian Hilliard's book Networking Like a Pro. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

1. Lack of follow-up

Not following up after networking tops our list of worst networking mistakes. Most people have made this error because they get caught up with their other responsibilities. It's an innocent blunder, but not following up is not only a mistake but also counterproductive. You'd be better off NOT networking in the first place than you are networking and not following up with the people you meet. (Yes, it's that bad.)

Remedying this mistake is all about putting a system in place so you form a habit after each networking event you attend. It's like packing your gym bag the night before -- doing so sets you up to make it to the gym the next morning.

Related: 13 Habits of Exceptionally Likable People

2. Unclear unique selling proposition

Ineffectively presenting your business and its value -- the unique selling proposition (USP) -- is detrimental because people need to understand what you do in order to successfully pass business your way. You can attend the all networking events you want, but if no one understands what you do or the services you offer, then you're wasting your time -- and it's one of the most common mistakes business professionals make. A properly constructed USP can go a long way to curing your networking blues.

We recommend your USP follows a simple formula:

"I work with [target market] to help them [benefit]."

Brian's unique selling proposition is succinct and direct: "I help busy entrepreneurs market their business in less than 90 days." That formula leads people to ask not just Brian but also anyone else using the formula, "Well, how do you do that?" The unfolding of the conversation naturally leads Brian to discuss his business and what makes a good referral for him.

3. Confusing networking with face-to-face cold calling

For this mistake, we need to start with a discussion of the difference between networking and cold calling. Networking is all about relationships and, more specifically, developing them to the point where a reciprocal referral relationship exists. Cold calling is about volume and, more specifically, is about making as many calls as you can, in the hope that "something sticks."

People get into trouble when they insert a cold call approach in a networking environment. At an event, they immediately try to "work the room" in an effort to meet as many people as possible in hopes that "something will stick." Hence the term, face-to-face cold calling.

If you find yourself trying to talk to everyone at a networking event, you might want to reevaluate your overall approach to networking. Remember, networking is about relationships and getting to know people. It's about asking good questions and finding out how you might be able to help each other out. And most of all, it's about developing a rock-solid foundation where future business can be generated. That's how you network like a pro.

Related: How to Network, for Those Who Hate to Network

4. Not responding quickly to referral partners

This mistake is particularly troubling because we find the very idea of not immediately responding to a call from a networking partner bewildering. Unfortunately, it seems to happen with some regularity.

Treating each of your networking partners as one of your "best clients" is critical. You should always return phone calls from these people immediately, as it speaks to your credibility and reliability as a professional.

There have been countless examples of people receiving referrals at networking groups who go back to their places of business and finally get around to contacting the referral in a few days. The old phrase "If you snooze, you lose" is apropos here. Time is of the essence, and if the referral knows you had her name and number on Monday and took your sweet time calling, that sends a message you don't want to be sending!

5. Abusing the relationship

There are many ways that we've seen networking partners abuse the relationship, but the following story is one of the most glaring examples of this situation.

A woman we know was invited to attend a 50th birthday party of an associate who used to belong to a networking group in which she also participated. They'd once had a long-term working relationship, so out of respect, she decided to attend.

When she got to the door, she looked through the window and noticed that people were arranged in a semi-circle listening to a presenter in front of an easel board. When she stepped in, it was obvious that the "party goers" were being recruited for a business opportunity. As resentful as the woman felt, she and other mutual friends found it difficult to remove themselves from the "birthday party" despite the fact that the only refreshments being served was the company's diet shake!

Never, ever mislead your networking partners. Trust is everything in relationship networking. Inviting these people to a "birthday party" that turns out to be a "business opportunity" isn't being honest with the people with whom you want to build a trusting relationship.

If networking hasn't been working for you, see what adjustments or changes you can make in your style and approach based on these five mistakes and their suggested course corrections.

Our collective experience lets us happily share that once you iron them out, the world of referrals and mutually beneficial relationships will beat a path to your door.

Brian Hilliard

Bestselling Author & Client Acquisition Coach

BRIAN HILLIARD is the co-author of Networking Like a Pro (Entrepreneur Press 2017) and popular speaker. As creator of the program "How to Market Your Business in Less Than 90 Days," Brian works with busy entrereneurs in the areas of Marketing, Mindset and Personal Achievement. Some of Brian's work has appeared nationally in Black Enterprise, Coaching World Magazine and the Martha Zoller Morning Show. During his free time, Brian enjoys playing golf and basketball and watching as many movies as possible on Netflix!

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