One of the worst faux pas I’ve seen in business is confusing direct selling with networking. Some people assume that networking’s really just about closing deals as opposed to building relationships. And there are so many things that I’ve seen people do wrong! The biggest mistake you can make is to abuse your networking relationships because you’ve invested a good deal of time and effort into them. You have someone that you can call on because you’ve invested—and they’ve invested in you. So the last thing you want to do is abuse those relationships.

The most glaring example I’ve ever seen was a woman who invited her personal network to her “birthday party.” She said, “It’s my fiftieth party. I’d love to have my close business associates and friends come and celebrate.” One woman who was invited told me she went to the “party,” and it turned out to be a sales pitch—not a party at all! When the woman arrived, she walked through the door, and a sizeable group of people was sitting in a great big semicircle in the living room. A guy standing up there with a flip chart, doing a business-opportunity presentation. The woman who attended was saying to herself, “What? I thought this was a birthday party!” But it wasn’t a birthday party at all; it was a business pitch! To top it off, the woman went there hungry, expecting there to be snacks and, of course, a birthday cake. No! You know what they had for refreshments? The diet shake from that multilevel marketing company—that was it. Essentially, her associate deceived her into coming to a business presentation under the guise of a birthday party, so you can understand why this abuse of trust basically ended the relationship. The woman told me, “I felt so used in that relationship.”

When you’re starting out building your networking relationships, be wary of making the following mistakes: not following up, confusing direct selling with networking, premature solicitation, and abusing the relationship. By the way, we don’t network perfectly in the beginning. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started networking. I was trying to close deals too soon and I couldn’t figure out why people didn’t want to talk to me again. I had to learn how to do this. We all have to learn. The more we can recognize what we’ve done wrong and learn from that, the more successful we’re going to be.

Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI.com
Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI.com

Are You Approachable or Alienating?

Success: it’s not just a word. It’s also a very popular magazine you may be familiar with. The editor of SUCCESS Magazine, Darren Hardy, has an absolutely wonderful book that we recommend you pick up and read cover to cover. It’s called The Compound Effect. The underlying principle Darren discusses is that “the little things add up”—which certainly applies to networking. Don’t assume that because some of the strategies we outline in this book are simple and easy to understand, you shouldn’t invest the time to implement them. There’s a reason why we recommend that you practice some of these simple tasks on a weekly basis. After all, repetition produces results—especially when building your referral networking business.

Because the little things do add up, below are some simple things for you to consider regarding your attitude, body language, and congruence. This will help you determine whether or not people perceive you as approachable or alienating. The reason we believe this topic is so important is because you may be sending unconscious signals to others when you’re networking that will directly affect the number of referrals you receive and the number of referral partners you make.

Approachable Behaviors:

1. Positive attitude—Smile, laugh, and look like you are a pleasant person to talk to. Although this seems ridiculously simple, you’d be surprised how many people forget it and therefore don’t practice it.

2. Open body language—The book Networking Like a Pro introduces the reader to the dynamics of how the posture a person has when he or she stands when conversing with others. The author refers to “Open 2s” and “Open 3s.” In short, if you are in a conversation with others, make sure your open stance allows for others who walk past you to join the conversation easily. Otherwise, they might not see you as approachable now…or ever.

3. Congruence—Conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of that particular networking event. If you were at someone’s party, you’d go above and beyond the norm to make them feel good about themselves and the party…wouldn’t you? You attended the networking event to make new friends and deepen relationships with people you already know, right? Then it might be appropriate to act like it.

Alienating Behaviors:

1. Negative attitude—No one likes a complainer! When attending networking events, please leave your own problems at the door. This is true for both your conscious signals as well as your unconscious signals. For example, rambling on about your rough personal or professional life is off-putting to a future referral partner. Listening to challenges in your marriage relationship or that your boss has favorites in the office are not the reasons why people attend networking events. If you’re down, don’t bring other people down. They might avoid you at the next networking event, and the next, and the next.

2. Closed-off body language—As just mentioned, in the discussion about Closed 2s and Closed 3s, it is possible to alienate people who might want to learn more about you at a networking function simply by standing in a “closed-off manner.” Your stance means everything in your approachability and allows others who walk past you to join the conversation easily. If you have a scowl on your face and your arms crossed over your chest, others will likely move on to someone more welcoming.

3. Incongruence—Inconsistency between what you say and what you do makes a huge difference in people’s perception of whether or not you are approachable or alienating. If they see regular inconsistencies, they may believe you are insincere and will regard what you say with skepticism.

So how can you be sure that people perceive you as approachable and not alienating? Try bringing a trusted friend or referral partner with you to your next networking event. Observe each other’s body language, tone of voice, and words. Then exchange constructive feedback privately after the event, with the intent of helping each other become better networkers.

Cover Concepts FINAL BS1ABOUT THE BOOK: In the new book, “Avoiding the Networking Disconnect:” authors Ivan Misner & Brennan Scanlon offer an easy-to-use guide for business professionals on what to do – and what not to do – to build and maintain a sales-generating circle of relationships. Chapters include tips for introverts, what to do if you forget someone’s name, how and when to follow-up, and how to first raise your social capital in order to raise your profits.

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