Common networking fails and how to avoid them

Constructing relationships with complete strangers might be daunting. As an entrepreneur who has cold-pitched dozens of buyers and an government with Wharton Alumnae Founders & Funders Affiliation (WAFFA)—I’ve each perpetrated and seen my share of networking misses.

The central problem of networking is navigating the skinny line between relationship-building and searching for skilled acquire. How do you strike the best stability between these two seemingly opposing approaches? Begin by avoiding these pitfalls that even skilled networkers make once more and once more.

1.   Hiding their motives

Even a touch of disingenuousness can kill a brand new relationship. That’s why it’s higher to be upfront about your motives for reaching out to a brand new contact, moderately than positioning your self as “simply attempting to get to know them.”

Professionals are conscious that you just haven’t messaged them since you want a brand new pal. Extra probably, you need to find out about an initiative they’re engaged on, safe an introduction, domesticate a goal buyer, or join with a possible employer. You don’t want to conceal why you need to converse with somebody. It’s disguising your agenda that comes throughout as dodgy.

“I’m approached dozens of instances per week for intros. The important thing to getting a sure is spelling out how precisely I might be useful,” Shannon Grant, an investor, and the copresident at WAFFA, informed me following an occasion with a preferred speaker final month. “If I may also help a founder safe funding for a enterprise that shapes the panorama, that’s significant to me. I don’t want to be in her wedding ceremony.”

2.   Asking for an excessive amount of

Being upfront together with your ask is important, however asking for an excessive amount of might be deadly. Requesting a particular intro from somebody you don’t know nicely can flip awkward in the event that they don’t even have a relationship with that contact or don’t assume it’s use of their contact’s time.

To avoid placing somebody on the spot, ask open-ended questions that depart area for the opposite occasion to gracefully decline. “Are you aware anybody I ought to converse with as I strive to find out about jobs at Google?” beats “Are you able to join me to your ex-colleague Mrs. Smith at Google? I need to ask her for a job.”

“I acquired this observe from a contact asking for an intro to a particular investor, however I didn’t know that investor personally,” recalled Alice Zhang. The founding father of the micro-entrepreneurship group IncubateMe and a WAFFA board member stated, “I may have been far more useful if the sender had supplied context and requested whether or not I knew anybody who is likely to be a match for what she was doing.”

3.   Bringing too little effort to the desk

The notion that somebody is approaching too sturdy isn’t typically created by their forthrightness about their motives. As a substitute, the problem is normally what they’re bringing to the interplay.

Dian Oved, CEO of Empower Digital, a digital advertising and marketing and PR firm, defined a standard pitfall. “A brand new founder will ask me for a celeb intro for a collaboration,” Oved stated, “however they haven’t but constructed a web site, ready supplies, or considered what they’ll do if the intro is made.”

What individuals miss is that in each introduction, the connector is buying and selling on their very own fame. To go to bat for you, somebody will want to see that you just’ve achieved your homework and are ready to ship a significant interplay.

4.   Lacking the Goldilocks level of specificity

Profitable networkers hit the Goldilocks level of specificity. “Hey, I’m trying to unload my stock. Any ideas?” is just too imprecise an ask. It places the burden in your new contact to assume by your issues for you. As a substitute, strive: “Are you aware any retail consumers trying to purchase wholesale stock?”

However at all times depart the “how” of your ask up to your contact. “Yeah, that intro you’re making? I’ll want him to be out there for a Zoom subsequent Friday” is just not look. Go particular in your request, however broad on the execution –don’t strive to management it.”

Marina Tarasova, cofounder and COO of the healthcare startup Paloma Well being, supplied an instance from her hiring expertise: “One applicant stated he was on the lookout for a job in both Operations, Product Administration, Advertising, or Gross sales,” Tarasova defined. “I used to be left and not using a sense of the place precisely his ability set lies. He would have been extra profitable naming particular capabilities he may deal with inside every space–like monetary forecasting or negotiating with model companions.”

5.   Failing the likability check

You do not want Steve Jobs-level charisma to be a profitable networker however you do want to clear the fundamental likability bar. Approaches that really feel boring, entitled, or missing in substance will immediately flip off new connections.

Individuals need to be impressed, intrigued, or excited by what you might be doing—or not less than by what you might have to say about what they are doing. It’s tough to kind a connection in case you haven’t shaped a standpoint on one thing that issues to the opposite particular person.

Entitlement is one other deal-killer. Individuals who really feel they’re owed favors are tiresome and have a tendency to be the most important deal-breaker for me once I’m approached for intros.

Lastly, making claims that don’t maintain water, or exaggerating your personal significance backfires. “I offered 109 handmade bracelets in someday” beats “I’m constructing an initiative that may change the face of the transportation financial system by rallying key stakeholders.” The latter is named a phrase salad—and no quantity of dressing can reserve it.

Being direct, clear, humble, and ready is the gold commonplace in networking. However in case you can avoid obscuring your motives, over-engineering your ask, or getting into half-baked, you’re already forward of the sport.


Marina Glazman is a strategist, two-time entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO at Suitely.