How NOT to network
Networking (from Merriam-Webster) : The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
Did Merriam-Webster intentionally leave out "unsolicited bulk email" as a means of networking? Should they have included "find emails on the internet and immediately solicit them"? Or perhaps this definition came out before dialers were popular, and they should have added "put a person you've never met into your database & let a computer call them...if they want to talk with you they can press 1". I'm almost certain the definition doesn't include any of these because that is NOT how to network.
There are 2 key pieces of the definition that people seem to forget - the first is the word exchange. To exchange means that both parties bring something to the table. Your SPAM email and my email back to unsubscribe me doesn't count. The second is the term "productive relationships". What kind of productivity can really come from an email template that you send out to hundreds if not thousands of people with no prior research or information on them aside from their email address?
It seems the people that fail the most at networking fall into 3 categories - networking whores, stranger danger, and the dreaded "friend zone". All of them have different approaches, and all are shining examples of how NOT to network.
To the networking whore, it's all about quantity, baby. Quality be damned! If you've got an email address, let's do business! The networking whore is notorious for seeking 'lists'. Lists of Realtors, lists of LO's, lists of any profession really, and then sending out email blasts to everyone on the list - hundreds of thousands of the exact same email template to hundreds of thousands of very different people.
It's a numbers game with the networking whore. Sure, they may annoy the vast majority of people, but they don't care. It only takes one person to bite. And why spend time building relationships and learning about people and their business when you can just click 'send' instead?
"Hey, I don't know you, and you don't know me, but come work for/with me!". Stranger Danger networkers are Amber Alerts waiting to happen - sure, that company that just found you on linkedIN may have a $20K signing bonus, or some candy in their van, but if you get in, your pipeline is going to disappear.
Credit repair companies and recruiters are notorious for the stranger danger approach - one minute it's a request to join your network, and the next second it's a templated email asking you to send clients or work for/with them. Whoa buddy, hands off...what ever happened to first base & taking things slow?
While networking whores are the most annoying type of wannabe networkers, stranger dangers are definitely the creepiest. They have even visualized doing business together, having mutual clients, increasing their revenue through your referrals, and living happily ever after til death do you part.
Stranger dangers are uncomfortably comfortable with asking for your business after a quick "Accept" on linkedIN or friend request on facebook. No questions, no learning about your business, no conversation. From strangers to lifelong business partners, in the click of a mouse.
The "Friend Zone"
The networker that gets stuck in the friend zone has my sympathy. They're really nice people. What they have to offer is even pretty cool...we think. They never really explained it well, but it looks cool.
The "Friend Zone" networker is just calling to check in. Always. Always calling "just to check in and see how things are going". They have MASTERED an accent that I believe is a mix of despair, hopelessness, and French. They masterfully translate "Just checking in to see how things are" to a "I really, really...REALLY wish you'd send me some business" between their lips and your ears.
The friend zone networker comes in many varieties - the more common ones are good people with no faith in their product, and the ones with good products and no faith in themselves. They just cannot muster the ability to ask you for business nor tell you why doing business with them will benefit you. Nor will they ask you questions that could lead to a productive conversation & business relationship, because they don't want to bother you or seem pushy. But they'll always be there to check in and see how things are going. And you'll tell them, because hey, every once in a while it's nice being asked how you are.
Every time rates go up and the mortgage market slows down, it never fails that I get inundated by networking whores & stranger dangers. There's not enough time in the day to unsubscribe from everyone's list, and in the internet age, solicitations come from locally to as far away as Australia - yes, just this week an operation in Australia solicited me to send credit repair prospects their way...because they specialize in American credit! The only way I'd send a valued client for help overseas is if it were a solicitation from the Prince of Nigeria himself.
To be clear, I'm not referring to press releases, or marketing to an individual with an introduction. The worst networkers are the ones who market to everyone & anyone in a very impersonal way. Point being, if you work in an industry that relies on networking, or if your business model includes it, it's worth the time to learn how to do it effectively, and considerately. How does one do that? Well, that's a blog post for another day.
Looking to network with a lender that brings something to the table for Realtors, title companies, attorneys, financial planners, or local businesses? Give me a call at 484.680.4852, or shoot me an email. Especially if you're a Nigerian Prince!