It Never Hurts to Ask . . . Right?

How many times have we heard people say that it never hurts to ask? Surely more times than we can count. 

Well, in this video, I explain why it definitely hurts to ask sometimes–especially if you ask to soon!  I share a personal story of a recent time when a stranger contacted me via LinkedIn wanting to connect and accompanied the connection request with a note asking me something which I found inappropriate to the point that I decided right then that I was never even going to consider connecting with her.

Watch the video to hear the story and to find out why I flagged the woman’s LinkedIn request as problematic on three significant levels.  Let me just say that this is ‘Networking 101’ and if I were her teacher, she would have gotten a failing grade–this is not the way to network!  Whether you frequently participate in face-to-face networking, online networking, or both, you’ll definitely want to hear this story so you never make the three mistakes that this woman did.

I’d really love to hear your feedback on this.  What are your thoughts?  Also, please share any similar horror stories you may have in the comment forum below–I’m looking forward to hearing from you.  Thanks!

Spray and Pray Networking

An associate of mine once told me about an interesting experience she had when she struck up a conversation with a woman at a networking function.  When the woman asked my associate what she did for a living, my associate explained that she  helps small business owners build their businesses through networking and referrals.  The woman smiled quite confidently and said, “I’m a business owner myself and I’m actually really good at networking!  I’ve been doing it for a long, long time.”

This, of course, ignited my associate’s interest so she said to the woman, “I’m always interested in the tactics of successful networkers; do you mind if I ask you what your secret is?”  The woman flashed a self-satisfied smirk, stood up straight with an air of accomplishment, and said, “Well, I always make sure to go to networking functions with a friend and when we enter the room we draw an imaginary line right down the middle.  If my friend takes the right side, I take the left side and vice versa.    Once we each choose the side of the room we’re going to cover, we agree to meet back together at a certain time, and then we spend the entire time networking only on our individual side of the room trying to gather as many business cards as possible.  When the time comes for us to reconvene with each other, we compare how many business cards we each collected and whoever has the least is the loser so they then have to buy lunch for the one who collected the most.”

My associate inquired further, “So what do you do each do with all of the business cards you gather?”  Donning her proud smile yet again, the business woman said, “That’s the beauty of it.  I enter them into my prospect list and begin to send them information about my services!  Since I have all their contact information, I figure why not pitch my services to them–they’re all potentially good prospects, right?”

When my associate told me this story, she was appalled that the woman would network in this way and I wholeheartedly agree that this is NOT an effective way to network.  Instead, it’s a classic example of how some people use networking as a “face-to-face cold-calling” technique which I like to call “spray and pray”–it’s basically just like taking a networking spray can (so to speak) full of meaningless information, dousing the room of people with your spray, and praying that you’ll hit a few people who will respond to the generic concoction you’ve sprayed them with.

Networking is not . . . I repeat NOT . . . about simply gathering contact information and spamming people at a later date.  In reality, that’s nothing more than glorified cold calling–Brrrrr–it gives me the chills!  I used to teach cold calling techniques to business people many, many years ago and though cold calling may work some of the time, I did it long enough to know that I didn’t ever want do it again.  Nearly three decades ago, I decided to devote my entire career to teaching the global business community  that there is a much better way to build long-term business than “spraying and praying”–not only is it better, it is the absolute best way to grow any business–the secret to effective networking and long term business success is investing in strong, mutually beneficial business relationships based on trust.

Have you ever had an experience with someone who adopted the “spray and pray” networking style, or have you ever been a “spray and pray” networker yourself?  If so, please share your story here–I’d love to hear your experiences!

People Hate to Network… Not!

I was recently contacted by a reporter from a major U.S. national newspaper who said:

“I was wondering if you might be able to point me in the direction of some research that says that many people don’t like networking?  I see that concept cited all over the web, but I can’t find anyone who has actually conducted a survey or done some sort of study to back it up.”

I sent her the chart in this blog, which comes from the research I did for the book: Business Networking And Sex, (not what you think).   She was very surprised by these results.  She said that she had always heard that people didn’t like to network and so she assumed it was true. 

As you can see in the graph, over 57% of the respondents were comfortable or loved to network!  Only 37% or just somewhat comfortable networking and less than 6% were uncomfortable or did not like networking.  This is substantially different than the impression the news reporter had about the process.

I think there may be two reasons why she may have believed that most people don’t like to network. 

  1. The “proximity effect.”  People tend to take on some of the beliefs of people that they hang out with.  Newspaper writers ‘tend’ to be around other writers and editors.  They generally do not hang out with sales people and entrepreneurs.  However, it is the small business person that is out there selling and networking.  The writer is writing about people she doesn’t tend to be with all the time and may get a point of view about networking from other people – not entrepreneurs.
  2. The “I’m better at this than others effect.” One of the things we learned in doing the research for this book was that most people think “they” are better at networking than “other” people.  This tends to create a belief that other people may not like it because they surely are awkward and poor at it (more to come on a future blog about this topic).

The bottom line is that the majority of business people do like to network or are somewhat comfortable networking.  It is a powerful way to generate business and it sure is a whole lot more interesting that cold-calling!

How about you – do you hate to network, love to network, or something in between???

Why Word of Mouth?

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that the secret to success–without a little bit of hard work–is still a secret!  Word of mouth marketing is a solid foundation for building any successful enterprise and, like anything else that brings great rewards, it takes time, effort, and dedication (a.k.a.–a “little bit of hard work” ;-)).

Developing a word-of-mouth marketing program is an effective, potentially lucrative way of generating more business.  The reason I said it takes “a little bit” of hard work is because it’s not even hard work when you consider the alternatives:

1.  Increase your advertising budget

2.  Develop an effective public-relations campaign

3.  Pick up the phone and start cold-calling

The first two alternatives can be ridiculously expensive and the third is time-consuming and frustrating.  However, a structured word-of-mouth marketing program is also personally empowering: it’s one of the few things that you, or someone who works for you, can do (other than cold-calling) that directly affects your success.  Why wait for people to walk in your door?  Why sit idly by, hoping that your existing clients or customers will refer you to others?  With a structured word-of-mouth program you don’t have to wait for the results of your last PR campaign to kick in.

A word-of-mouth program will give you control and allow you to take ownership for the business development of your company.  Such a program has worked for thousands of people in all types of businesses and will work for you as well.

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