What’s one faux pas new entrepreneurs often make at networking events, and what should they be doing instead? Why?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.
1. Focusing Too Much on You and Your Business
Oftentimes when building your business, it’s easy to get caught up in your own world. The benefit of networking events is expanding your network and learning from others. However, neither of these happen if someone is so focused on themselves and their own business. Take time to listen, ask questions and learn about other people’s businesses. That will help yours by default.
I have seen a lot of new entrepreneurs who will ask for a meeting or call but will never take initiative. If you think that the party can help you achieve something, then don’t wait for them to make the move. Take initiative and write an email or dial their number. If you keep waiting, the wait will never end.
I hate the phrase “networking events.” Don’t network — connect! “Network” is basically exchanging business cards, which will get lost in a purse or a drawer. To truly be successful at this type of event, you should aim to make fewer, more meaningful connections. Find out what someone is passionate about, what they are nerding out on, what they really care about, and then build a relationship from there.
A faux pas new entrepreneurs often make is not having a clear goal for why they’re at the event. Many people arrive and find themselves feeling lost because they’re not sure who to approach and what to say. Instead, have a plan. Make sure you know who your target contacts are and what you want to say to them. This will help you focus your attention and make the most of your time there.
I never understood why new entrepreneurs go to events only to spend half the time bashing companies that also operate in their industry. This is not a good way to build partnerships, sell your product or show an upbeat brand personality. Instead, I wish more people would go to networking events, focus on their brand and bring positivity to the community.
New business leaders want to tell prospects and potential partners at networking events about their product or service; this is normal. However, far too many people don’t have tangible evidence to prove their claims. You can’t tell people that your product will help them grow their email list by 2000%, for example, without at least one success story or piece of data that proves your point.
Make meaningful connections because you never know when you will need someone to work with down the line. Become friends with them; don’t just rush the sale. You will find that oftentimes the one deciding factor for any investor or partner is, “Do I like them?” You will be spending a lot of time with someone, and if you don’t know their core values, that lack of alignment leads to potential losses.
During networking events, you’ll see a lot of new entrepreneurs telling established professionals what they want to hear. There’s nothing wrong with paying a few compliments, but overdoing it won’t get you anywhere. It’s much more impressive to express your skill set and show others what you bring to the table.
One faux pas new entrepreneurs often make at networking events is to wait for other people to approach them. They don’t realize that not reaching out to people makes them look standoffish. Instead of waiting for other people to approach you, be proactive and go up to other people first. Introduce yourself, ask about their business and offer to trade contact information.
You shouldn’t be boasting about who you are and what you are doing. This is sure to turn people off fast. Take that same time to have an interest in who they are and what they are doing. People love talking about themselves. Let your guest express themself and what they are excited about first. Then go in with your introduction.
I think new entrepreneurs — and, honestly, seasoned ones as well — can often get distracted at networking events by the general socializing and merrymaking and will forget the purpose of why they are at the event. Often these people can disrupt what may be a crucial meeting for someone’s future. Instead, entrepreneurs need to remember that socializing is fine, but this event has a deeper goal.
One faux pas is saying there is no other product or service on the market like your product or service. When a new entrepreneur says something like this, it’s an instant tipoff that they’re inexperienced. Pie-in-the-sky claims are a quick turn off for experienced business people who are more interested in real data and use cases than talking about an untested product or service or an exaggerated claim.