Networking and leading a horse to water

I had occasion this past week to contact a visitor to our breakfast networking group we have not seen for a month or so to find out why we had not seen him recently. His business would have fitted in very well with our current strong team of businesses.

In response I had an email which in part the visitor said “I am not sure if or when I will be coming back, I enjoyed the people there and meeting up, but if I am honest (and this is meant in a positive way) I could not see the benefit of talking about what I did every week to the same people; I know there are sometimes some new faces but in the main I knew what everyone did and they knew what I did.”

Well, yes, my friend. We know what you do. However, we don’t really know you. You seem to be a good guy, but if we refer our clients and friends to you, can you be trusted to do a good job? Are you reliable? Do we know you will not embarrass us? Of course, we have to admit that we as a networking group may have failed if we did not convey through education what makes a good networker, but on the other hand, you rushed to judgment and didn’t give us a chance in your couple of visits.

As serious networkers, we do not wish to teach our grandmothers etc. and be patronizing but should we talk about the essence of networking every week for the benefit of the visitors? Maybe we should, and perhaps I have made assumptions that people know why they are there. I know why I do it, and that is because I have built a trusted team of advocates whom I can advocate myself when I see an opportunity for their businesses to make a sale. Maybe stridency is needed in networking evangelism at the risk of causing some discomfort.

What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

Related post:

Breakfast referral networking and gaining trust

“Show me the money” and Giver’s Gain

I alluded a month or so back to my early steps in referral networking and my experience with BNI.

I wonder if I am going soft though. What always made me happiest in BNI was the concept of Giver’s Gain. In other words, if you help others they will help you; the logic of that is one will prosper from referred business which stems from the referrals one hands out. So why is it that at an open meeting put on by BNI the other day (which was otherwise very enjoyable – thank you BNI) I cringed when someone yelled out the slogan “show me the money” and went on to explain how rich he was getting?

I have been around the networking circuit for over six years now, since not long after starting working for myself. We would all like more income, especially in these difficult trading conditions, but I have become more circumspect in talking about my financial needs, especially in the environment of the wider world of social and business networking, online and offline. The funny thing is I have no problem in asking for a sale in getting a new prospect’s business, but boasting about how much money I am making as the BNI guy did would make me uncomfortable as did my hearing it from someone else. That is not to say I am a great salesman, or at least not with the hard sell.

I suppose hard selling was what the BNI stooge, for that is what he was, had been put up to do for the event. Maybe it worked for the newbie start-up businesses, but I am more into soft selling and referral by recommendation rather than because I belong to a certain group. Talking about money sounds like greed or avarice, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Yes, I know “show me the money” is popular in demonstrating the success of a Chapter but it gives me the shivers. If we realise that the more we have, the more we can give there is value in the statement as well as the money. Charity is what we should all have at heart when doing business; that is why I always loved the philanthropy of Zig Ziglar as well as his wonderful books about sales and motivation.

Despite all this, I am considering returning to the BNI fold, though not giving up any of my present local networking including my current breakfast meeting. I enjoyed the old camaraderie and togetherness of BNI, and whilst I think some BNI members including Assistant Directors don’t quite understand what Giver’s Gain really means, the lure of the old tribe may be hard to resist.

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