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The Wrong Way to Network…a Marketing “Don’t”

January 19, 2010

I just read a wonderful blog post on The Wrong Way to Network. I mention this issue as I’ve observed it quite a lot recently. To summarize the writer’s experience, she was at a networking event where a guy didn’t listen (after asking her) about what she did. He then moved onto the next conversation or table without actually paying attention to what other people in the conversation were saying. He was just doing the meet ‘n’ greet as quickly as possible to see if anyone was useful to him – the speed-dating equivalent in the business world.

You know, it ain’t the sheer number of contacts you make at a mixer or luncheon, it’s the quality of the contacts you make. Recently I attended a lunch of three other colleagues. We were all strangers set up at the same business lunch date. One person decided to start the introductions and elevator speeches. As soon as the one person finished he pointed to another one to say, “What do you do?” It all rang loud and clear (without saying a single word to the effect) of “What’s in this for me?” I waited for all the others at the table to go before me with their little speeches to see if they were all cut of the same cloth. (They weren’t.) And while they all had viable businesses and were perfectly polite by Emily Post definitions, it was plain as day that most were calculating what they could get out of the lunch meet ‘n’ greet. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It was a business lunch. The goal is to keep your eye on the ball, right? Yes, but…. Business is a reciprocal transaction. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Good business deals are only good when they are win-win scenarios. Otherwise you’ve no incentive or desire to repeat the transaction (or a new one) with the same person. So this was the problem I perceived at this lunch. And I’m not saying everyone at the table was guilty of this transgression. But the underlying feeling I got from some was, “What business can you send my way?” It was all “gimme, gimme, gimme.”

When I encounter this type of business person I immediately withdrawal from them because I know he or she has no interest in my services, in a reciprocal arrangement. And while the other guy may not be able to directly do business with me for a variety of reasons, it’s highly possible s/he may know someone else who desperately needs my services. But I know since that guy’s focus is all on what s/he can get from me, s/he won’t even think of me when s/he talks to that other person who would use my services.

What these people seem to miss entirely is that business relationships are built primarily upon trust – not on whether or not you’ve got a product or service I actually need. What is much rarer than things and services are trustworthy business associates. And when you clearly put self-interest ahead of learning what you may be able to do for the other guy, you immediately lose any trust by the other party. In fact, when I get this feeling from a business associate I’m pretty certain I’ll be shafted by their service or product in some way.

In giving of your time, interest and respect to another colleague, the reciprocal desire to help out is a bottomless well of opportunity. I’ll look for new leads and referrals to you forever. But the taker is just that: trespassing on my time and trust when clearly they’d prefer to be elsewhere. Which are you?

One Comment leave one →
  1. dormrmtocourtrm permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:59 pm

    Such good advice! As a law student, all we hear about is Networking, Networking and more Networking. All they say is to meet as many people as possible. But i never thought about the difference between meeting 100 people who won’t help, and meeting only 10 that will. Thanks. Check out my blog at

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