I hate networking. There, I said it.
When I hear the word “networking” or someone mentions a “networking event” I have visions of vultures circling a dead carcass on the side of the road.
I don’t like feeling like I’m being “sold to,” nor have I ever liked, probably to my detriment, “selling myself.” Rather, I feel if people get to know me, know what I’m passionate about, and what I have to offer my friends, colleagues, and customers, they’ll let me know if they want to associate with me.
Next Saturday, I’ll have the privilege of facilitating a session of the NSAHouston Speakers Academy, and I’m really looking forward to it! The academy is made up of new and experienced speakers who want to take their speaking businesses to the next level. The topic for our session is, “Professional Relationships”. It got me thinking about the mistakes that many people make when trying to build professional relationships using what they believe are good networking techniques, but in fact, are just selfish and self centered.
I hope you’re not making these mistakes, but if you are, now’s the time to stop being selfish and start building relationships.
1. You walk up to people with a stack of business cards in your hand.
Especially if the first thing you do when you introduce yourself is to shove your card into theirs.
When I see someone walking toward me with a stack of business cards in their hand, I start to worry. I know they want something from me. I know I’m going to hear more about them than I ever wanted to know. It looks needy and desperate- don’t do it! If someone wants your card, they’ll ask for it. Alternatively, if you want to connect with them further, you can ask the person for his or her card AFTER you’ve had a chance to talk. The person will likely reciprocate by asking for your card.
2. You introduce yourself with your elevator speech.
I’ll never forget the first person I met at my first “networking event” when I started my business. When I introduced myself, he responded with his elevator speech instead of his name. The introduction came across as fake and insincere. The message it sent was that he wanted me to be sure to know what he did, rather than to get to know me.
3. You do all or most of the talking.
Solid relationships are built on listening more than talking. As I always say in my workshops, you’ll learn more when you ask than when you tell. Ask the other person questions about him or herself. Take interest in the other person. Ask how they got their start in business and why they love what they do. People love the opportunity to have the stage and you’ll gain the opportunity to know more about the other person and whether the person is someone with whom you want to build a professional relationship.
4. You only networking with those you think are “important”.
Selfish networkers tend to make a bee line for those they’ve figured out are “important” in a group, rather than taking the time to talk to the person sitting next to them. I know you’ve seen it, and some of you have done it. At a networking event or during a break in a meeting, a few people have a line of people waiting to talk to them and others are standing around like wallflowers. You never know who might be that one person who turns out to be the most valuable connection you’ve ever made. Everyone has something to offer if you just take the time to listen. Besides, if important people have a line of people trying to meet them, what are the odds they’re going to remember you or have time for you? Finally, “important” people get it. They can smell your need a mile away. They know they’re the top dogs and they know what you’re after– which gets old after a while. They’re people too. They want to build relationships, not to be used by everyone who wants to feed on their accomplishments.
5. You focus on what others can do for you, rather than what you can do for them.
Selfish networkers try to figure out what others can do to help them. Relationship builders try to find out what they can do for others. It hasn’t happened a lot, but when it does, I’m always a little surprised when someone asks,
“How can I help you?”
If you ask me this, I may not know offhand, but you can be darn sure I’m going to ask you for a business card or I’ll connect with you later on LinkedIn. You’ve shown me that you’re interested in building a two-way relationship, not just looking for how I can help you achieve your goals.
6. You fail to follow up.
One of my biggest personal pet peeves is people who don’t follow up. If you say you’re going to send me an article, send it right away. If you say you’re going to call me on Friday, I’m waiting for your call. If you promised to introduce me to someone I just HAVE to know, then I’m waiting for that introduction- and I probably won’t remind you because I don’t want to appear needy!
When you fail to follow up, you’re showing you’re unreliable and that you don’t care.
These are certainly not all the signs of a selfish networker, but they’re some of the most common. If you want to build true, life-long, professional relationships, you’ve got to stop focusing on networking and start focusing on how you can help people . . . one at a time.
Bottom line? Don’t be: