People conversation in coffee breakI have a developing list of bad behaviors in networking. It seems after every event I can add either an entirely new “don’t” or an innovative variant of the core list.

  1. Chumming – Method of “baiting” the water to entice sharks to take the bait and encourage feeding frenzy. The chumming behavior is exhibited by those individuals or organizing groups who bring a “big name” to an event as the drawing card, and they offer him/her up to attendees to make pitches.
  2. Feeding frenzy – The behavior exhibited by individuals and groups toward a “hot prospect” (i.e., any breathing and conscious person) that is in the room, crosses their path, or is headlined at an event.
  3. Truth or Dare – Daring to represent your skill set, resume, background, products, or company as more capable than it is…You promise and promote and hope you have moved on before the truth comes out…
  4. Telephone – Much like the childhood game one person conveys a message to another person in the group…that message then gets passed on…usually incorrectly…until someone gets the message and tries to act on it…only to find there is no resemblance to the original message. Think “Joe over there just told Sharon that Stan needs to by 10 computers.” By the time Mike the computer guy gets the message, it is “Stan just bought $10 million worth of computer systems for the new expansion project that Dale the commercial realtor put together for the new shopping center that Mary did the legal work for and best of allIheardthemsaythattheywillbehiring100peoplenextweekand youaretheperfectcandidateforthejob!”
  5. BFF – Best friends forever… but you just met Frank 10 minutes ago…

It is important when networking to not engage in behavior that alienates rather than attracts. If you want to connect and develop the potential for doing business, leave the hard sell, and yes even the soft sell, at the office. This may seem counterintuitive to you, but networking is a process of establishing the basis for a relationship¾and sales is about relationships. Making a pitch in a networking setting is much like proposing marriage on a first date: not the wisest course of action.

The best approach to networking is listening to the other person to identify opportunities to help that person first. The more interested you are in others, the more you will learn and the greater the likelihood that you will find a point of mutual interest (serving same market for instance) and make an opportunity to invite the person for coffee or lunch to learn more about them and their business and to share what you do.

Building trust and a relationship that will provide referrals, recommendations, and other important connections takes time. You need to learn who the other person is, their values, attitudes, the way they do business and they need to learn the same about you. More and more as business owners, professionals, and people doing our due diligence on the people we potentially want to do business with is necessary, even vital. Almost a decade ago when I started my business, one of the professional associations had a meeting; at that meeting I was introduced to someone that had just relocated to our area. I gladly met him for lunch and shared insights, tips, and contact info of some people I thought he should meet. He in turn said “I don’t know you well enough to share my contacts.” Essentially, a thanks for helping me, but I have no intention of helping you. Fortunately, he made that statement during that one meeting and enabled me to hedge my bets by sending emails to the contacts I had shared introducing him, but being very careful not to indicate that he was a trusted business associate, advisor, or someone I knew well. That experience taught me to trust and verify, beginning a relationship with a few introductions to people and organizations I know, but not to my most valued and trusted circle. Your reputation can be influenced by:

  • those you introduce others to,
  • by those you do business with, and
  • how you interact during networking opportunities.

Your reputation is the most valuable thing you have in growing your network. Do not put your reputation at risk but moving too quickly. Don’t try to slide into home plate without touching all the bases.

Copyright ©2015 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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