Have you ever been solicited for a referral or for business by someone you didn’t even know? Michelle Villalobos, a BNI member in Miami, calls this “Premature Solicitation.” [Say that fast three times and you might get in trouble!]
I agree completely with Michelle, and I’ve been a victim of “premature solicitation” many times. I was recently speaking at a business networking event and, before my presentation, someone literally came up to me and said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you. I understand you know Richard Branson. I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide. Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”
OK, so what I was thinking was:
Are you completely insane? I’m going to introduce you, someone I don’t know and don’t have any relationship with, to Sir Richard, whom I’ve only met a few times (here’s the story of the first meeting), so that you can proceed to attempt to sell him a product or service that I don’t know anything about and haven’t used myself? Yeah, right. That’s NEVER going to happen.
I am pleased to report, however, that with much effort, I was able to keep that little monologue inside my own head, opting instead for a much more subtle response. 😉
I replied… “Hi, I’m Ivan, I’m sorry–I don’t think we’ve met before, what was your name again?“ That surprised the man enough to make him realize that his “solicitation” might have been a bit “premature.” I explained that I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a long-term strong relationship with the service provider first. He said thanks and moved on to his next victim.
Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships. Don’t engage in “premature solicitation.” You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.