Anatomy of a False Networker
Recently I was introduced to the term "false networking." It’s an interesting term that has several interpretations. A “false networker” can be someone who:
• shoves a business card in your face as they run from person to person at an event
• tells you all about themselves without any interest in learning about you, your product or service
• racks up the numbers in their social networking accounts without giving any value
• refers a networking group member to another because they feel they have to out of false loyalty, not because they want to.
• plays at networking without heart and authenticity
• goes to event after event without following up with contacts.
I’m curious. What if these "false networkers" ARE doing what they think is "true" networking because that's the only way they know how?
The high unemployment rate has thrown many folks into networking because they have to, not because they want to. They have no clue that networking is about creating relationships and referrals, and not about selling. Their mindset is one of finding a job, keeping their job or making the next sale vs. creating the connection and discovering the many layers that may exist. Folks are in fear of not being able to pay the mortgage, put food on the table, pay for their kids education, make their quota, etc., so they network with a frantic mindset of shoving business cards at people hoping that just one person will pick up the phone or send an email wanting to buy. They are doing the only thing they know how to do to - survive. And yes, some may think that raking in the numbers of who is following them on Facebook and Twitter is the easy way to grow business. And for them that might be true - or not.
I’ve noticed that many professionals are so focused on growing the numbers in their network that it’s quite disconcerting. Every email and tweet is about how big their network is growing. There’s no information that comes forth from these announcement that entice me to add my name to their list. I asked the owner of one these groups what this numbers game is all about, and he said that the more people in his network, the more he could sell his services. I asked him if all of his efforts reaped results. After careful pondering he noticed that his business was the same, and that his focus on high numbers was not attracting the clients he so wanted. When he shifted his mindset to creating the relationships vs. caring about the number, his sales began to shift and the numbers naturally increased.
I've also found that for many people it’s challenging for them to master the referral part of networking. Does this make them a “false networker?” Not necessarily. It’s about learning how to step out of the habit of being self –focused, and into the habit and mindset of searching for opportunities by focusing on the needs of others in and out of your circle.
It reminds me of my friends’ Anatolian Shepard. As we walked down the street, that gentle giant of a dog was always on the lookout, his head moving side-to-side, searching the landscape for whatever lay ahead. His goal was to keep us safe and he created a wonderful experience.
Like my shepherd friend, scouring the landscape in our networking, and searching for opportunities for our clientele begins creating the trust needed for our new contacts to feel safe with us. It’s a “Go-Giver” mindset that reaps many rewards.
Referral-based networking is an art that requires practice. Groups such as BNI, Livewire and others, teach it very well. Unfortunately though, there are times in these “only one person in an industry” groups that the “seat” is held by someone who, for whatever reason, you feel uncomfortable referring to your clients. It happens, and nowhere have I seen that you are obligated to refer that individual. Trust your instincts. You will be doing everyone a favor by keeping your integrity.
When networking, what do we do when we hear, "I don’t have a need for your product/service." or “I’m not really interested in what you are offering so there’s no reason to meet.” Ouch! Let’s face it, this happens to all of us sometime or another. So launch yourself into an offensive approach vs. a defensive one. The accomplished networker takes a deep breath into their heart, focuses on appreciating the other person and asks questions such as;
• “OK, what I’m offering today may not work for you, but I, or someone in my network may need what YOU do. Please, tell me about yourself.”
• “What brings YOU to the event?”
• “What does YOUR perfect client look like?”
What do you think would happen if you ask for their card and say, "Let me search my network and see if there's someone who can use your services. Would you do the same for me in your network?" I'll get back to you by next Thursday and we can share our information and learn more about each other so we help each other's business grow. Does that work for you? Great! Do you prefer email or a phone call?"
What’s happened here? You took charge, made them feel valuable by asking questions and listening, created a team atmosphere by suggesting you both search your mutual networks, and set time boundaries that created an opportunity to open the door to future communication. You also modeled great networking skills by focusing on the other person and their needs, and ensuring that you are "top of mind" because people remember how you make them feel.
It’s a great way to influence a “false networker” into becoming a “true networker.”
To Your Success!
Terry Wildemann, CEC, CPCC, CPBA
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