Recently I had an unpleasant networking experience that I thought would make a good article. Here's my take on what to do, verses what NOT to do, when meeting with a potential networking associate.
I was in a well-known office supply store, and a young clerk tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a networking relationship with me. Here are seven things he demonstrated, things I already knew, but things that some young or inexperienced entrepreneurs might not know. So here they are:
1. Introduce Yourself – The person I met did not introduce himself to me. Once he learned my occupation, he immediately started his spiel about his other, non-office supply store, occupation, and how networking with him could benefit him.
2. Ask the Other Person What His/Her Name Is – This person never asked what my name was! Imagine trying to establish a networking relationship and never even asking the person’s name.
3. Give One or Two Business Cards, No More –This person gave me EIGHT cards! And I didn’t even want one of them! If your potential networking associate wants to work with you, they will contact you. You can give more cards at that time, if it seems appropriate.
4. Ask for One or Two Cards – After giving his EIGHT cards, he didn’t even ask for ONE of mine! This item alone was a No-Sale for me, because he was clearly not interested in networking with me, only in prompting his own side-business.
5. Respect Your Audience – As I mentioned in #1, after learning my occupation, this person dove right into his own occupation. He didn’t inquire any further about my occupation, or anything else about me. It was all about HIM, HIM, and more HIM. If you are truly interested in networking with somebody, you must respect the person. Allow them to talk about themselves so you can learn about with whom you may be working. After all, you may be sending clients to this person. Doesn’t it seem prudent to learn a little about whom you may be referring?
6. Don’t Talk Too Much on Somebody Else’s Dime – This guy was a clerk in an office supply store, and didn’t seem to care that he was blatantly promoting his own business on company paid time. That’s the wrong thing to do when trying to network with a bookkeeper/accountant/QuickBooks person. I kept thinking about what this encounter was costing the office supply company in payroll wages, payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, benefits, lost productivity, potential lost sales . . .
7. Listen Carefully, and Accept a No When You Get One – I told him two or three times that my clients rarely, if ever, ask me for financial planning advice. What am I saying? Does that sound like a “Yes, I’m interested in your services”? Careful listening is very important, especially for men dealing with women. Generally, women are not going to be straightforward with a clear, “No, ” in situations like this. My “No, ” was there, he just couldn’t or didn’t want to hear it. You can always ask if you are unsure.
All of these are clear examples of somebody who did not care for anybody except himself. And he didn’t even really care about himself. If he did, he would have done a better job promoting his side-business, don’t you think?
Even though his tone of voice was always friendly, his entire manner was extremely self-centered. Being polite and considerate is more than speaking with a pleasant tone of voice. It's about showing some care for the other person. Relationships are two-way streets. When we understand and practice this, our potential networking associates will be more likely to turn into real networking associates.
Jennifer A. Thieme is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor. Visit http://www.jenniferthieme.com for more information about her services.