As a business owner who is very connected to the community I have the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people. I attend 3-6 networking or community type events per week and have decided that “someone” needs to have the nerve to talk about some networking boundaries.
For the sake of ease, I am going to relate networking to dating.
Think back to your first crush; every time you saw him or her, your heart would beat just a little faster. You would see them on the playground, in the cafeteria and if you were lucky… on the bus. You longed for that moment when you might get to touch hands or maybe even kiss! Yes, I said it. Kiss.
What does kissing have to do with networking?
We all have those people that we really want or need to connect with. The owner of a certain company, the decision maker at a firm; we all have “that” person we long to meet and make a much desired business connection. However, so many business owners “lean in for the kiss” before ever asking your name or what it is that you do!
When I say “lean in for the kiss” I am referring to a couple of common premature actions that many people make. One of the most common is randomly handing out business cards. I know, you want to get your name and number in front of as many people as possible, right?
Let’s think about this in reference to dating. What would we think about a man or woman who went to a singles group and started handing out their number to everyone? Or what if they were asking everyone for their number? Sounds a little forward doesn’t it? What about that person who asks everyone they meet for a lunch date?
“Let’s do lunch”
I understand that this is a very common and in some circles an accepted way to get to know someone. BUT, lunch is intimate. It really is. Think about eating in general; we have holidays, birthdays, date night, funerals… they are all tied together with the intimacy of eating food. Personally, I do not feel comfortable AT ALL sitting down with someone I have never met or barely know and eating. It is uncomfortable. What should I order? What if they are not hungry? Or they’re a vegan? What if I get food stuck in my teeth and don’t know? What if the service is poor? What if the conversation is uninteresting and I am stuck with them for an hour? What if they expect me to pay?
Alternative? Meet for coffee. Meet in a group setting such as following a networking event. Meet at your office. And, ALWAYS set a start and end time. Then honor it. It is incredibly frustrating when I meet with someone who totally disregards the time. I’m busy. You’re busy. Let’s be considerate of each other’s schedules.
Here’s my rule: Don’t eat lunch with anyone that you would hesitate to tell them “hey, you have a big piece of spinach between your teeth.”
And, finally, the last boundary I would like to talk about; STOP trying to sell your product to EVERYONE! As great as your product is, it is NOT for everyone! And people who choose not to buy from you are entitled to spend their money as they see fit. I do not care how healthy, affordable, competitive, lucrative you product is! I have the right NOT to buy it. However, much like dating, if you take the time to develop a relationship with me and my business I may send you referrals. I may not buy from you, but chances are I know people who will!
Please feel free to share your comments!