I “met” my neighbor’s Newfoundland, Teddy, today while walking.
There’s nothing like taking a leisurely afternoon stroll down the street – and then being chased by a growling, barking 200-plus pound dog.
Even though I’m a dog lover, I’m still a bit leery of being charged by large animals, so I simply continued to walk and look for the nearest tree to climb in case “Teddy” had plans to devour me.
With no climbable trees in sight, I turned to face my pursuer. He continued to growl and drool and bark at me aggressively. Then, after a while, he slowly approached and nudged my hand with his snout – he wanted to be petted! All of that bravado, posturing and aggressive behavior in an attempt to “coerce” me into giving him some attention!
Once I obliged, Teddy was a friendly fellow – wagging his tail and sitting very nicely while I talked to him in my silly “nice doggie” voice and pet him.
Don’t Network like my Neighbor’s Newfoundland
So what does my neighbor’s Newfoundland have to do with networking?
Well, I got to thinking about how some folks approach networking like Teddy the Newfoundland:
1. They try to position themselves as “The Big Dog.”
Some folks think that when they are out networking, that they need to be perceived as the super successful, confident and most important person in the room. They jockey for center-of-attention status and bragging rights to the latest story of their accomplishments.
Unfortunately, they often do this at the expense of others – making people feel intimidated or afraid to speak.
It’s okay to be confident and to share about good things happening in your life and business – just don’t be obnoxious about it. Nobody likes a braggart. Be sure to give others the opportunity to share the spotlight as well.
2. They “chase” after their potential customers online.
You exchange cards at an event and them BAM! You are suddenly being stalked on 7 different social networking sites and your blog by someone you hardly know, but who “wants to be friends/connect” with you all over the web.
Sometimes, they even combine their attempts to connect online with the good old sales pitch – “Hi, Cathy! I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. AND, here is a link to my company brochure, website, product and services list and a calendar to schedule a sales presentation – by me, your new best friend!”
Bombarding people with online connection requests makes you look desperate and feels smothering to the person on the receiving end.
Don’t overwhelm your new connections with tons of messages and requests online. Instead, simply choose one site where you both are active and it makes the most sense to connect to reach out and extend an invitation. That way, you can get to know one another first by having some “virtual conversations” and learn about potential ways for you to support one another.
Then, if you find that it makes sense, connect with them on other sites as well.
3. They “bark” out their 30 second pitch at everyone.
All too often, people at networking events tend to recite their commercials and pitch their business at others – without even attempting to engage people in conversation first.
There’s an art to being able to tell others about what you do without sounding like a corporate answering machine message. It starts by talking like a real person and not a telemarketer.
4. They “corner their prey” at events.
Instead of approaching people in a natural, conversational way and attracting them by offering value first, they view networking as a “hunt” for clients. They view everyone in the room as “fair game” and often “latch on” to their prey for longer than necessary conversations where they monopolize the conversation by speaking AT others rather than WITH them.
Networking events are for shorter, friendly, more “exploratory” conversations rather than long, private talks – and certainly NOT the place for long-winded sales pitches.
5. They “drool” at the prospect of a potential sale.
Ever see those “dollar signs” in the eyes of someone you are talking to at a networking event? Ask just one polite question about their business or even express an interest in learning more and they are salivating as they think about how much income they will get if they can just “close” you right then and there.
I probably don’t need to tell you how much people dislike being “sold to” or being rushed into a sales conversation – because no one I’ve ever met enjoys being on the receiving end of this sort of behavior. So just don’t do it.
Networking is about meeting people, making introductions and developing rapport – NOT selling! (unless the person explicitly tells you that they want to buy exactly what you are offering and whips out their checkbook – then, go for it!)
Take the time to create the connection first and then you will know if your new contact is in fact someone who would be interested in your product/service and if a sales conversation should even take place.
All of these “aggressive behaviors” are simply going to put off the very people you wish to attract to your business. Worse yet, when you do these things, you gain a reputation as someone to avoid at events and online. (I bet you can think of someone right now that fits this description, can’t you? Don’t be “that guy.”)
So, in order to be successful at developing relationships that can potentially lead to clients, referrals and other opportunities, don’t network like my neighbor’s Newfoundland!