Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Networking Expert or Something Else?

I had the opportunity to attend three separate networking events over the past few days where the virtues of building one's business network were the rally cries of the day. Though both events were well attended and actually well organized, I found that one of the messages being touted by one of the so called "experts" particularly disturbing.

This self-described authority on networking actually shared that in today's economy no one has the luxury of time to get to know someone. This expert actually suggested the quicker one can determine whether the person one is talking to is a likely prospect for one's business the better. "After all your time is too precious and valuable especially now to waste!" This expert went on to suggest that serious business professionals have little time for idle chit-chat; networking is a numbers game and one must not forget that.

My tongue is still bloody sore this morning from biting it. Every sense in my body was exploding as I heard these pearls of absolute crap pontificated and the people who were gathered around succumb to their role of sheep with little prompting. Heads bobbed up and down in Jim Jones' like agreement and the occasional, "You are so right" or "Could not agree with you more" effortlessly crept out of people's mouths. The expert smiled having been recognized as the smartest person in the room and I desperately searched for the bathroom as images of tossing my lunch on the expert's shoes flashed through my mind.

First let me tell you that my opinions about networking are my own. I don't fancy myself a networking expert - not by any means. Traditional networking absolutely works for some people. I just happen to believe that the prejudgment and quick and dirty aspects of surface connecting with new people as a means of quickly ascertaining their value as a prospect is wrought with many an issue.

My approach to connecting would absolutely make this expert's skin crawl. I have no doubt that their approach has allowed them to close a lot of business along the way. Perhaps more business than I have over the years and that's perfectly fine with me. Our goals are simply different. They are playing for the here and now what can you do for me today and I am playing for something much different. Again I don't judge this person, I simply don't agree with their approach. Perhaps that is why they have had multiple jobs over the years prostituting everything under the sun and why I have managed to stay fairly flat but successfully consistent (and happy) in my career - who knows.

Networking in my humble opinion is about authentic connection - not quick ascertainment of what can you do for me today or at the latest tomorrow. Authentic connection comes from taking your time and building the relationship not immediately evaluating or categorizing its immediate value. Many a client that I have worked with over the years would have been been discarded by this radical approach and you know what? that would have been my complete loss. Not simply from the business these companies eventually brought to me but for the friendships and long-term loyalty they have rewarded me with over the years.

You simply can't put a price or a value on that.

As I made my way out of the event one of the ladies from my group stopped me to ask me what I really thought. I was determined to not be the negative naysayer so I held my tongue and was polite but nondescript about my feelings. She chuckled and said, "You know that expert, that so called god of networking over there? I've met them six different times and still today they don't remember who I am. Networking expert my ass."

Ripple On!!!


Thom Singer said...

OH MY GOD.... who would say networking is about moving quickly. It takes (in my opinion) 7 - 10 meaningful interactions with a person before you establish a strong relationship. There is not a fast track just because the economy is tough.

I felt all sick inside reading your post, as anyone who heard that message got very bad advice. Icky.

We should never be too "busy" to care about others and invest in them. If we want them to care about us, we need to care about them first.

As for the person who forgot the woman's name... I try to be very good with that one, but I fall short on my memory sometimes, too.

I try to be understanding when people forget having meet me. One person in town never remembered me for the first four times I met her. I was annoyed, but figured I had not done enough to make an impression!

It was good to see you yesterday.


Liz said...

wow. great post. I hope no one paid to attend the "expert's" session. You are 100% right that networking is about building meaningful connections.

Love your blog.


Pete Monfre said...

I'm so bummed I missed that. Great entertainment value but totally wrong.

Steve Harper said...


Thanks as always for your insight. I too believe it takes a minimum of 7-10 meaningful interactions to establish a strong connection with a person. I think then and only then the foundation will be strong enough for a relationship to truly begin.

Great seeing you at the NS event on Monday as well.

Ripple On!!!

Steve Harper said...


You are one of my all-time favorite BLOGGERS so your comment about my post and my BLOG in general really means a lot to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Ripple On!!!


Steve Harper said...

Hey Pete,

How's the Hollywood kid? And his parents....too?

You would have loved it because I could vision the scene unfolding quite differently had you been there. In my mind's eye I see you pulling a tranquilizer gun and some masking tape from your super secret Clarity Marketing case. No doubt followed by some serious Pete talk about personal branding and how to avoid a very public flogging. Then I see you finishing up with a stern warning to never let you see this go on again or else. Then the expert would beg for their release at which time your sinister but scary laugh would occur. It gets hazy after that....

Yep...it would have been different. Way different.

But instead....I just bit my tongue until it was bloody.

Where oh where was the Monfre man when I needed him?

Ripple On!!!

Anonymous said...

Steve, that is really disturbing networking advice and completely contradicts human nature. Networking has nothing to do with you, it's all about how you make the other person feel.
I would love for you to attend one of my networking sessions (Austin Smart Networking Meetup) and see my approach. We discuss authentic networking and other networking tips in a facilitated way. Also, check out the book Smart Networking by Liz Lynch - wonderful and easy read on effective networking.

Andrew Weaver said...

"Heads bobbed up and down in Jim Jones' like agreement." That random analogy made me smile.

As for the rest of the post, wow. I am irritated someone would be so arrogant to say such a thing. No matter how fast paced the world is moving, or technology is moving, life and the success of your business starts and ends with relationships. And relationships take time. Period.

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