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!