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The 5 top networking turn-offs

Dec 17, 2013 | tips, Vee's blog | 10 comments

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Next month I will be celebrating 8 years in business. Referrals and business networking have been the biggest contributor to getting clients and still is.

I’ve been a member of 4Networking for 2 years now, and seen, shall we say, some interesting ways of how people network. Some have been rather impressive (‘that’s so good I might try that’) and some have been just awful (‘get me outta here I’m a businesswoman’)!.

Seemingly insignificant behavoiur can actually sub-consciously (or consciously) completely destroy any hope of doing business or getting quality referrals from me and probably loads of other people.

So here, I’ve distilled a list of my top 5 networking turn-offs – be warned….

1. Your image doesn’t match what you do

Whether you like it not, first impressions do count. You need to look the part. You are an advert for what you do or sell. For example, if you’re in the health industry, then you need to look healthy! If you’re into weight-loss, or fitness, then you need to look slim and fit! If you don’t, then either you’re not using your own products or they don’t work. So I’m out!

2. Boring Pitches

Sadly I, like most people, have a very short attention span. I was never very good at paying attention to boring monotone teachers at school. With adulthood and age, I’m sorry to say, it’s not improved. I’m still not very good at listening to boring monotone speakers! If you rattle off a long list of what you do, then, sorry, you’ve lost me. Short, succinct and punchy – that’s what I need for my attention to be held (as well as everyone else in the room).

3. Assuming you have my permission to add me to your newsletter list

There seems to be a common misconception among, even seasoned networkers. Just because we were at the same networking event, whether we spoke briefly or at length, (or not), then receiving a newsletter out of the blue does not reflect very good manners or communication skills. Out of courtesy I would expect to be asked (at the event) ‘Is it ok to add you to my email list’ or follow up with an email that reminds me we met and that you have a wonderful regular newsletter that I might find interesting and is it ok to add you, then click here and assure me that I can unsubscribe any time. Mostly I have no objection to this kind of request, but assuming it’s ok does not score points with me.

4. Being sold at

Networking is about meeting new people and building relationships so you get to know like and trust someone enough to feel confident in passing business their way. Yet it amazes me how some people expect to make a sale first meeting. They pitch at me without asking me a single question! To the other extreme where I’ve ended up talking to someone (who doesn’t know me or who I know) who’s declared there’s no-one in this room who could be a customer of theirs and his attitude is a negative ‘can’t be bothered’. Well that’s a shame, because my clients would probably make good clients for you, but you haven’t bothered to find out about me, so I’m not inclined to share that information now.

5. Not showing up

As the ops assistant for the Hemel 4N group I have gradually got connected to hundreds of people. I have the job of confirming numbers. I communicate this by email, phone or text. Most people are good at replying to me – they get my thumbs up. Those that don’t and don’t show up, or those that do confirm and don’t show up, maybe don’t realise what damage they are doing to their reputation and how much influence I have with those who they’re hoping to do business with. Do they honestly think that I’m going to refer or put business their way when they have demonstrated their unreliability and lack of communication? I don’t think so…… If you can’t make a meeting then say so! If an emergency happened that prevented you from attending when you’re expected, then follow up with an apology afterwards. It’s courtesy and puts you in a better light than if you remain silent.


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  1. Gail Morgan

    Brilliant blog Vee – lots of ideas and reminders about how to engage with the person that you are talking to. I would also add – be interested in their business, listen and ask questions – in the hope that this will be reciprocated!!

  2. Vee Smith

    Thanks Gail, I agree with your tips about taking an interest by asking questions and listening.

  3. Nick Kira

    I’ve not been a 4N member that long, but have come across no.4 lots of times. I find being pitched at, directly, a huge turn-off. I see the 1-2-1s like a good radio ad/script: have a conversation with me – I’m a captive audience – don’t shout/pitch at me!
    There is a tactic I’ve found that works in dealing with ‘pitchers’: simply ask ‘so what kind of businesses are you looking for then/who can I speak to for you?’…. this makes the person acutely aware they’re pitching to you (and that you’re not buying), and that you might actually have useful contacts outside of this meeting.
    I’ve also had the other end of the spectrum: the ‘complete apathy 1-2-1’. Silly. They have no idea who I might know, outside of the room, and vice versa.

    By the way, as a Copywriter, what do I do about point no.1? Bar a beard and glasses, which I have, there isn’t an image which matches what I do! (maybe a quill, ink pot and parchment…)

  4. Vee Smith

    Nick, thanks, great tactic for dealing with ‘pitchers’. As to the image of a copywriter…. well, if you turned up in a straight suit, I would think you’re a city worker. Whereas if you turned up in a tracksuit I would think you’re a personal trainer. So what’s in between? Smart casual that shows off your creative side with a dash of something that is uniquely you that makes your personality shine and stand out. In fact, that’s something an image consultant (like Gail Morgan or one of her graduates) can help with! (That wasn’t a pitch by the way 🙂 )

  5. Angus Grady

    Very good post Vee and it sums up networking perfectly.
    I think that 4N in particular has got it wrong when it comes to image..too casual says too casual about how you do business. It is important as you mentioned to have the right image.
    Gail’s comment is a good one as well..too often people don’t listen to what you are saying and as Alun Maxwell has said on many an occasion they jump into solution before they have heard the full issue.Its about listening first talking second.Nick is right as well, being pitched to is a pain in the bum..discovery then engage
    We all not show up in some ways..I am guilty of not posting a forum post for the last meeting,simply forgot ..this is not good for me as it shows I’m being lackadaisical about my responsibilities,it needs attention.
    There is a point 6 which is Follow Up..this should happen as a matter of course especially after 1-2-1’ on the conversation, offer to help give some helpful tips, God forbid, phone the person and have what used to be called a conversation..these all seem such simple things to do but rarely get done.

  6. Vee Smith

    Thanks Angus. I agree with your point 6. So many times I’ve had a great 1-2-1 and been promised a follow up with more information because I’ve expressed an interest, and I hear nothing more from them. What a wasted opportunity! It tells me a) they’re not serious or interested in my business and b) they most likely will treat my referrals (who are my valued contacts) the same way. So for that reason… I’m out!!

  7. Gail Morgan

    Nick, for ideas on how to present yourself I would ask you, ” How do you want to be perceived by the other networkers &/or your clients?” Personally I would expect a copywriter to fit into that illusive “smart casual” category. A coloured or patterned shirt, tucked into smart trousers or jeans with a belt that matches your (clean!) leather shoes. Add a tweed or textured jacket in a neutral colour and ensure your grooming is impeccable and you won’t go far wrong!

  8. Geraldine Gallacher

    Really good blog, Vee. I always think the mantra “seek first to understand before being understood” is a good one in networking situations. I find my female coachees think of networking as something on their things to do list (which they would rather wasn’t there) but my male coachees just go to things they want to go to eg rugby, golf, etc and the networking is a bi-product.

  9. Michael Nagles

    Fantastic stuff, Vee. Well said on every point! We share a common bond over point 5.

  10. Nick Kira

    Hi all,
    great to see good interaction among the comments!
    Angus, I have to say I’m lucky in the respect that directly pitching what I do wouldn’t work: you either need a copywriter or you don’t. It’s a very considered decision I’ve found – clients certainly don’t wake up thinking ‘I fancy using a copywriter today!’ – and there’s an element of luck in what I do: catching people just when they’re thinking of sprucing up their marketing or giving it a complete overhaul.

    Re; the image thing – thanks Vee and Gail for the tips! Gail – quite like the idea of a tweed jacket actually, might shop around in the Xmas sales…
    I should explain that I came from an ad agency background, where there’s clear delineation between ‘the suits’ (account handlers/managers/planners) and ‘the creatives’. Agency creatives often wear ‘cool’ branded t-shirts (or t-shirts with obscure bands on them) and jeans. Creative departments are often littered with paper and markers – in complete contrast to the rest of the agency – as a tidy creative area is a sign that not enough is going on/being done!
    Only the larger agencies, with a more corporate image (BBH, AMV etc) keep everything tidy.

    Choosing to be more client-facing, as opposed to squirreled away in a glass booth, meant having to consider my image much more: no more t-shirts, plus smarter jeans, and brown leather shoes instead of Converse. Lots of checked shirts, with plain white t-shirts underneath, and some nice, chunky jumpers (no hoodies: unless I’m going e.g into a design studio).
    I can’t appear too straight-laced as that says ‘I write bland copy’, but I can’t be too lax as that says ‘loose canon’ / ‘ can this person be trusted with my brand?’. In the end I have to go for ‘conservative eccentricity’ – creative yet responsible and focused.
    It’s a minefield!

    Anyway, that’s quite enough from me: merry Christmas and happy New Year, one and all!

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