How to Not Be the Annoying Networker

Spreading the word about your business necessitates a bit of self-promotion, a smidge of bragging, and a lot of rubbing elbows with different people. Here’s how to work your network without alienating everyone around you.

You know that in order to grow your business some shameless self-promotion is necessary but you don’t want to be “that guy” (or girl). What can you do to spread the word about your business?

Let’s lay out the scenario. You go to a party, luncheon, fundraiser, or your kids’ soccer games and there’s “that guy”. You know him—the one who never stops talking about himself. “I just landed a huge contract” or “Let’s have lunch sometime so I can tell you about all of the exciting stuff happening with my business.”

Annoying! It’s like a used car salesman—not the nice guys but those kind-of-creepy ones you see in movies.

You don’t want to be “that guy” but here comes the part that rubs you the wrong way: “that guy” is getting business that you aren’t. How is somebody so annoying winning over customers?

The truth is that you have to self-promote but you have to walk the line. Here are some tips.

Read Your Customer

We’ve all heard of introverts and extroverts. Introverts are more reserved and sometimes shy. Extroverts love a good conversation and will talk to anybody about anything.

Of course, these are generalizations but we all know people who are quiet and those who are outgoing. If you come on too strong, the more reserved people on your customer list are likely to be annoyed while those hard-core extroverts may respond favorably. 

Don’t Go After Everybody

Sometimes networking opportunities present themselves and when they do, don’t pass them up. If, however, you’re looking for people to contact, be selective. Put a list together composed of people who have purchased from you before, who are in a business that would find value in your products or service, or who have some other favorable connection to your business.

If you’re networking with somebody who could find value in what you have to offer, your business is a service to that person. If you’re pitching somebody that has no need for what you do, talking about your business is likely to be annoying and a waste of your time and theirs.

Be Interested in Them

Sales stem from positive relationships. Positive relationships form when people feel valued. If you don’t genuinely care for the other person, they know. Dale Carnegie, in his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Related: Top 10 Ways to Maximize Your Networking Approachability

Use Social Media

Everybody knows that nothing beats an old school, face to face conversation but reaching out to somebody through appropriate social media channels works for many. The secret? Use social media to give people something for free with no strings attached. Maybe you’re a landscaper. Sending somebody lawn care tips without anything sales could be a great way to break the ice.

LinkedIn, Facebook, and a personal blog might be sound strategies too. The key to social media is to run tests. Try different types of outreach efforts until you find one that works.

Stop Talking so Much

Have you noticed that a large percentage of the people you probably find annoying talk a lot? These are the people who have the answer before you pose the question or never stop to hear your story. When was the last time you said, “that person annoyed me because they spent too much time listening to me?”

Keep your networking speak short. Ask the person questions and listen to the answers.

Follow Up and Follow Through

Here’s another scenario: You meet the fast talking person and she promises to call or email you with information. She doesn’t do it and later, you see her again at another event and she acts like she’s speaking to you for the first time.

Maybe she decided that you weren’t a good prospect but by not following through with her promise, you might have told your friends about your dealings with her.

Even if you don’t think the person you met will ever be a client, if you said you would follow up with information, do it. In this case, it’s not about a sale, it’s about your integrity. Even if that person will never be a customer of yours, he or she might tell a friend about you and you want your name mentioned as somebody who followed through with promises.

Related: How to Follow Up after Networking Events

Bottom Line

It’s no easy task to be aggressive enough to land sales without being so aggressive that people avoid you in public and are never able to take your call. There’s something inside all of us that gives us the ability to read people. If people read you as genuinely interested in them, they aren’t likely to think of you as being aggressive. If, on the other hand, if you’re networking with the sole purpose of landing a sale, you might be “that guy.”

Related: 7 Habits of Highly Horrible Networkers

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