Are you getting the most out of your networking time? Do you come home with the feeling that you just wasted your evening? Not getting quality referrals? The real question is are you going into a networking situation unprepared?

The first question to ask yourself is, are you in the right networking group for you? Myth number one. Any networking group is good as long as I am meeting people. Wrong. Try visiting a few different groups. Do you have something in common with these people? Are they open and friendly to you? Can you see yourself building relationships with them? Does the time work well for you, and I mean are you able to attend these meetings on a regular basis. Just going once is not going to be helpful. Yes you will get cards, but you need more than that. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. How can you possibly do these three things in one meeting? Not possible is the answer, these things take time.

To help people get to know you, try volunteering in the organization. People will frequently see you, and have an easier time getting to know you. Try arriving early and offer to be man the registration table or be a greeter.

Myth number two, when I meet someone I must give them my whole life story and sell them everything I have. No you don’t. Your first meeting is just to get acquainted. Do you have common interests, can you be beneficial to each other. During this initial meeting you should schedule a follow up more in depth meeting. To find out if you are compatible ask open ended questions, such as who are you, what do you do.  How long have you been in business or even better who is an ideal client for you? This shows the people that you are interested in them. You want to be known as the go to person. If there is a need you want them thinking of you first.

Myth number three, everyone is my potential client. Sadly this is just not true. When you go to an event you need to have a clear picture of who it is you want to work with. When someone asks you, “Who do you want to work with, what is a good referral for you?” You need to know and be able to tell them. While you are walking around the room, do you see someone with a business that you could work with? By knowing who your ideal client is, you can seek them out.

Myth number four, I don’t want to follow up to quickly and seem over eager. Not true, do not wait. If you are given a referral you need to follow up in a timely fashion or you jeopardize your reputation with the person who gave your name out. Once your reputation is scared it is a long road back.

Remember go in to each event with a clear focus as to what types of businesses you are looking to work with. Know exactly who you are and what you have to offer. Keep it simple, build relationships and not just quick sales and you will do fine.

Originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle on February 12th, 2015.