If You're Spraying & Praying, Here's the Networking Fix You Need

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!

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13 thoughts on “Spray and Pray Networking

  1. What a great post! I find that I have actually backed off from some networking events due to being inundated with emails from these types of networkers….

    It really seems that desperation is the driving force here as many urgently need customers and use the shotgun approach of getting them anywhere they can.

    I look forward to learning more and following the blog!

  2. I don’t mind it really when I get emails from people who were just at the same networking event. Our chamber actually plays a game where as you are going around playing the game you are collecting cards.
    I appreciate this, is it gives me an opportunity to meet people on the other side of the room, that I would have never met. And since we are all at a networking event, I am assuming we are all like minded. With the contacts I collect, I do not send them my flier , or anything like but I do try to reach out to them, to share other networking events, i.e. BNI meetings, and to see how I may be able to connect them with synergy partners . What I think is worst is to attend a networking event, and not answer calls with people who are trying to follow up with you, or emails. What was the point of going.

  3. My experience is that I run in to a lot of the Net-Eat, Net-Sit, Net-Waste Timer and Net-Looking for a date type of people. Then you have the people that talk, talk, talk, me, me, I, I’ers. Plus the one’s that they are some busy selling or looking to sell it is crazy. I love the ones that as they are talking to you they are clearly casing the room. It is Wild and Sad. I really wish more of them would read stuff like this article.

  4. I should clarify here – I am an avid networker and do enjoy networking. My issue is with people getting business cards and then sending out immediate emails or correspondence to “sell” something without really connecting!

    Laura – I agree that once you do have a handful of cards, the next step is to connect with them! Have a phone conversation or coffee and find out what you can both do for each other…. Like Zurriane, there are many out there who are bombarding others instead of really connecting…

    Great conversation!

  5. I go to a number of conferences and events; more so when I was in a business development role. I’d even attend a few BNIs. I am never really sure what to do with all those business cards I get (or conversely all the LinkedIn invites I receive after I hand out my business card). I remember meeting one person who worked for a chamber of commerce type organization in my city and when I asked what this person did with all the business cards, they replied “I put them into my electronic card scanner”. Then what?

  6. I silently weep inside when I see this and it happens often. Mostly because these folks have been told to “grip & grin and collect business cards.” I was told to do this when I started a sales career in 2005. When I learned that “Networking for Mutual Benefit” was a far better to network, connect, build relationships and then determine how to help each other, my life changed dramatically.

    This is why I wrote the book, “Networking for Mutual Benefit.”

    Thanks for reminding me that there are lots of people who still need to come out of the dark side. (lol)

  7. Thank you Dr Misner, I love that! “Spray & Pray.” It’s much better than “Glorified Business Card Advertising.” When I first learned to “network” I was taught to put business cards in the left hand, shake hands and give them a card. It was extremely awkward to say the least, so I was ready to quit networking. Then, I learned that networking is about building relationships from a book by you. Now, when I meet a new business professional, I make it a point to ask for a business card and in the same breath, promise that I will never SPAM them. I only give out my card when someone asks for it, because then, they really want it. This approach has helped to cut down on the business card exchange SPAM that I receive, tremendously! The relationships that have resulted from following up to help THEM, have been the keys for both business and personal growth. Thank you for all that you do!

    1. Here’s a system for making use of business cards thrust upon you. (Not my original idea) Mark them A, B or C.
      “A” – follow up immediately; “B” – follow up soon; “C” – throw in the trash.

  8. When I ran my own MeetUp Group, we spent a great deal of time discussing the “Etiquette of Networking” – I would really LOVE to see local Networking Groups & Chambers bringing in speakers on this subject!!! We used to treat our newest members a VIP’s and would ask them what they needed from the group & then REALLY try to support those needs.

    If we had Chamber Ambassador’s who could teach as they assisted, that would really change the outcome of these events!

    Really enjoying reading the comments everyone – lk

  9. I met this guy on Linked In, and I sent him an endorsement based on Recruiting (his specialty) and immediately regretted it! He used my moment of interest in his skills to try to sell me over the phone and called non-stop for a week. As a salesperson myself, I admire his enthusiasm! But that was just excessive and unnecessary! I told him in the first call that our business on-line meeting needs don’t yet exceed what Skype can offer, then he kept calling and sending messages asking me for the main ‘Decision maker’. On this subject; that’s me friend. I couldn’t believe how blatantly he offended me! I think these experiences make me better at networking, because I learn quickly what doesn’t work!

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