For many people, networking is not a skill that comes naturally—even to entrepreneurs. But without this skill, entrepreneurs may end up developing bad networking habits that could hinder their ability to form new business relationships.
Because cultivating good connections is crucial for any entrepreneur, breaking those bad networking habits is a necessary undertaking. To help, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council list some of the bad networking habits that entrepreneurs need to ditch immediately if they intend to improve the quality and quantity of their business connections and master the art of networking.
1. Talking Too Much About Yourself
Don’t talk too much about yourself. Make networking conversations about the people you’re speaking with and really listen. Show them you’re interested by inviting them into the conversation. If someone is introverted, it may be harder to pull conversation out of them. Have some go-to questions ready. What goals are they working on? Do they have any recent accomplishments? Let them do the talking first and eventually they’ll want to know more about you. If they’re naturally extroverted (like me), they’ll be spewing all kinds of ideas. From there, you can ask questions to dive deeper. With a smooth back and forth established, you can build trust and begin forming a relationship. This will eventually turn to you and your business, and the conversation will feel more natural. – Frank B. Mengert, ebm
2. Being Too Pushy
Don’t be too pushy right off the bat. There’s something off-putting about someone who shoves a business card into your hands too soon. Above all else, relax! If the connection makes sense, it will happen. How can you determine if it makes sense? Talk about each other. Learn what you each have to offer. Before you part ways, exchange contact information somehow. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
3. Focusing On How Others Can Help You
Don’t go into networking with a mindset of “How can this person help me and my business?” Go into networking with a mindset of “How am I able to contribute to this person in front of me?” If you go above and beyond for someone else, they’ll remember that much more than if you were to just look for something from them. They’ll have a positive view of your business and you as a person and, in turn, they will also want to help you too. – Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving
4. Not Talking To Enough People
Hiding in the corner and only speaking to one person is one bad habit that hinders building professional relationships. My suggestion is to get out there, introduce yourself to as many people as you can and start building genuine connections by listening and taking an interest in what others say. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
5. Not Following Up
Spamming introductions without any follow-up is a bad habit when networking. Whether you attend in-person events or seek communities online, many people just want to shake as many hands as possible and give out as many cards as they can, but they forget to follow up. It is important to connect with each person not only the first time you meet, but also on an ongoing basis. A lot of people determine whether or not they formed a successful connection based on their first interaction and never go back to it, waiting for the other person to make a move. You should be the one making the move by following up and keeping the conversation going. – Jacob Tanur, Click Play Films
6. Making Self-Deprecating Jokes
A poor habit of some entrepreneurs is making self-deprecating jokes or jabs to appeal to investors and professionals. While this type of humor works in the right setting, it’s often inappropriate while networking. You’re trying to set an excellent example and prove to those around you that you’re worth having around. This type of negative self-talk will only hurt your chances of making strong connections that can help you further your career. Don’t sell yourself short or fall victim to impostor syndrome and instead embrace your accomplishments and strengths. – Jared Atchison, WPForms
7. Not Going With A Goal
Networking, like any other activity, needs to be driven by a clear goal. Many people join networking events with no purpose in mind. As a result, when they do reach out to people, they aren’t sure what to talk about and they don’t know how to leverage the contacts they do make. Think about why you want to network in the first place. Are you looking for a job or are you seeking a partner for your business? When you have a clear business goal, your networking will make more sense and you’ll be more likely to take clear steps that lead to the achievement of your goals. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
8. Attending Events With Groups
When I go to networking events, I tend to go alone. This forces me to get out there and meet new people. A common bad habit I see is people going with a group of colleagues and not breaking away from that group. They use the group as a shield, and instead of forming any meaningful relationships they just waste their time with water cooler conversation. Get out of your comfort zone and go alone! – Steven Knight, Mosaic Home Services Ltd.
9. Trying To Outdo Everyone In The Room
Some people think that they always have to outdo everyone in the room. In an effort to impress people, they tend to exaggerate facts and make things sound better than they are. This never-ending one-upmanship often leads to outright lies about business stats and other activities. Don’t get caught up in this. Just be honest and humble. You will never build a meaningful relationship on hyperbolic revenue numbers and other business stats. Instead, focus on where you are currently in business and the people who can help you get to the next step. No one likes a showoff, especially one who is likely not telling the whole story. Have integrity and be honest with the people you meet. Over time, you will attract a higher quality circle of contacts that will help you build your company. – Shaun Conrad, Guitar Repair Bench