Column: Breaking ineffective networking patterns
Photo by Patrick Hoesly
This was how Mike, one of my buddies and networking contacts, referred to an experience at a recent networking event. He had been telling me about some challenging folks he had run into. This particular woman basically ran from person to person forcing her business card into their hands. Mike was curious how I would handle someone who had such a limited view of good networking practice. His solution was to take her card, but then ask her who a good referral for her would be.
Apparently it stopped her dead in her tracks with a look of abject confusion on her face.
Actually, Mike had the exact right solution. Whenever someone is following a set pattern of unproductive networking behavior, make a point of breaking that pattern. The "drive by" who ran across Mike obviously had never had anyone take an actual interest in her. When someone did, her programmed limited networking failed her, and there was an opportunity to find out who she was as a person.
The strong-arm salesperson with the checkered coat and the bad case of "commission breath" may be trying to steer you down his sales path. What do you suppose he would do if every time he started down that path, you gave vague answers, but then immediately followed up with a question about him, his business, and/or his personal life? I'm guessing before long he would either give up, or turn into an actual human being and a decent conversationalist.
How about that guy who wants you to introduce him to your friend, Tom, who's the CEO of a local company? He's used to "no" or maybe a tepid "yes/" What if you responded with an enthusiastic, "I'd be glad to, but before I do, I'd like a chance to get to know you a little better. Could we meet for coffee sometime? I want to make sure that you and Tom would be a good fit."? You'd probably get a chance to know this person a lot better and be able to introduce them to other members of your network who might be a good fit.
The folks who are exhibiting less-than-successful networking practices are usually doing it without malice. They simply don't know any better. Whatever the reason, by breaking their pattern, you may have an opportunity to help them become better networkers.
...an activity that could help your own network grow a lot faster.