Most consultants’ networking efforts go something like this:
They attend an industry event, business cards in hand. They dispense a bunch, collect a bunch more, and then head home to wait for leads to come knocking.
If this is your version of networking, then stop what you’re doing!
Networking is all about building relationships – and collecting dozens of business cards doesn’t get you anywhere near that end goal.
In addition, many of the kinds of events consultants attend are full of peers, not buyers. So while you might collect a business card from every person in the room, you’re still really leaving empty-handed.
So what’s a consultant to do?
Start networking smarter and more creatively. To help you, here are 4 mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1: Thinking You Don’t Need to Network
You’re busy; you have enough contracts for the foreseeable future. No need to network, right? Wrong.
It’s easy to let networking fall by the wayside while your servicing clients, but what happens when the project’s over? Network often to avoid the “feast-or-famine” syndrome that plagues so many consultants.
Mistake #2: Missing Out on Valuable Opportunities
Networking isn’t just about attending an industry trade show or a Chamber of Commerce event. It’s also about being on the lookout for opportunities to connect or re-connect with valuable contacts.
To do this, you have to get a little creative. For instance, if you’re reading a local business publication and see an acquaintance recognized in print, send out a note or give them a call to congratulate them.
Mistake #3: Going for Quantity Over Quality
In today’s day and age of social networking, collecting “followers” or “connections” seems to be akin to effective networking in the minds of many. But connecting with just one person that can truly make an impact on your career is so much more effective.
So look at the big picture. Networking is all about building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships…not about amassing cards, followers, or connections.
Mistake #4: Not Following Up
Sure, you have lots of connections. But do you actually connect with them on a regular basis? If not, you’re missing out on an opportunity to win more business.
So create a plan for following up with networking contacts regularly, whether it’s through a phone call or a monthly newsletter. Before you end a call or email, stipulate the next steps (if there are any) and when they might occur.