Networking Breakdowns

A couple of weeks ago I was called for jury duty. I went to the courthouse on a Monday afternoon and was promptly dismissed two hours later. Two hours! The jury selection system has become pretty efficient if you ask me.

What I found particularly interesting is how the attorneys and judge dismissed potential jurors they didn’t feel were a good fit for the case. The court was looking for a jury to serve on a civil case focused on negligence in a car accident. As a juror, if you were to feel any kind of sympathy or compassion toward someone that was injured in a car accident and it could influence your view, you were dismissed. That simple.

networking lessons from jury dutyAnd that was my ticket out of dodge.

Of course, you could be dismissed from the jury and not be given any reason or explanation whatsoever. None. Imagine being dismissed and not knowing why. Wouldn’t you be curious?

This lack of closure made me think of how it feels when you’re dismissed from someone you’ve met at a networking event. I don’t mean dismissed right there at the event although that can happen. But when you follow up with someone that you’ve met at a cocktail party, conference, or wherever and you never quite re-establish the connection after the meeting. And the dialogue you had goes nowhere.

Frustrating, right?

You send an email, make a phone call, or in some cases text, and the person you had this great conversation with is now in the witness protection program. Gone. It happens to everyone at some point or another.

Those you meet at events are almost always nice when you meet them. Nobody likes conflict. And at networking meetings there is a sense of everyone being on their best behavior. It’s what happens (or doesn’t happen) next that impacts the whole relationship. (I guess it’s a stretch to compare this to jury selection, but you get my drift.) Often in business, you don’t know why you’ve been dismissed and the reason could be important. Real important!

Your dismissal from networking duty could reflect a blind spot that’s costing you lots of business.

Here are some reasons why you may be losing the connections you make at networking events.

They Didn’t Really Connect with You
Ever meet someone at an event and it seems to take a lot of effort to speak with them? Or the conversation is one-sided? In my estimation this dynamic takes place about two thirds of the time. That means if you meet 3 people at an event, you may only connect with one of them. If you’re seeing dollar signs, you might believe you have a great connection when, in reality, you may not. Unless you can change that reality over time, you may never be able to connect or reconnect with that person and establish a meaningful relationship. The conversation should be collaborative, two-sided, and ideally valuable for everyone. And the conversation should feel easy and fun.

They Perceive they Can Help You More than You Can Help Them
There’s the one-sided thing again. The best relationships have to be mutually beneficial. If the relationship is not a benefit to all parties, they’re not really good relationships. Using a lot of WE language helps. How can we help one another? How can we be resources for one another? How can we be a benefit to one another? Not all relationships require an even-Steven mentality (I just helped you now you help me) but if your heart is in the right place it almost always works out in the end. The exception is that mentor or super established connector that takes you under their wing. It happens but not a lot.

They Already Know or Work with Someone that Does What You Do
If you’re a financial advisor for example and you meet someone that has a brother in law that is also a financial advisor – guess what? That person may never become your client or your referral source. But depending on the relationship they have with their brother in law (Is the brother in law a referral source?) they may be open to referring you business – especially if you’re in a position to refer them business. See how that works? Exchanging referrals. Isn’t that what networking is all about?

They Thought You Were Too Focused on the Sale
Very common. The Know, Like, and Trust distinction comes to mind. When you meet people for the first (and sometimes the second) time, you’re in the Know phase as in I’m getting to know you. You may or may not get to the next phase which is Like – hey, I really like you! Business tends to happen in the Trust phase – I know, like, and trust you will do a great job and add lots of value. If you meet someone for the first time and jump ahead to the Trust phase, you may never get your follow up email returned. (Trust me!)

They Don’t Have a Need
If those you meet feel they don’t need you as a resource, the relationship may not go anywhere. This gets back to not connecting and Know, Like, and Trust. One of the best ways to establish a need is by asking questions. Lots of them! Have you been to this event before? How did you learn about it? Who do you know here? How did you get started in your industry? How do you generate business? Are you based in the city? How long have you been in business? What is a good client for you? What is a good prospect for you? If I were to meet a referral source for you, how would I know? What are some other events you attend? Are you a member of professional associations? What is your expectation of this event? What outcomes are you looking for? If you can be a resource to help those you meet (when the time is right!), the need may present itself.

They Don’t See the Value in What You Do
If you meet people at events and they have no interest in what you do, more than likely they’re focused on those that can refer them or become their clients. Networking is about learning and helping. If you don’t meet people that have that mindset having valuable conversations will be difficult. The best networking happens when you can learn from and help each other in an open-minded, collaborative, and fun environment. If this vibe isn’t evident when meeting someone at a business event, then it’s time to say your good-byes and move on.

The key to developing relationships through networking is making sure you’re on the same (or at least a similar) frequency with those you meet. If you can laugh together and have a few fun things in common that is often a great start!

Notice how I keep using the word fun?

OK, here’s the big finish. You shouldn’t be looking to exchange business cards and follow up with everyone you meet at an event. There has to be a good reason and you MUST establish this at the event. The exchanging of business cards (or contact info in your phone) is the next step to something and that something has to be part of the initial conversation.

Does it make sense to exchange business cards (or contact info) so we can continue discussing ways we might refer each other business? I promise to follow up with you tomorrow, so we can coordinate!

You see how this initiates a collaborative conversation with a promise by you?

Networking is about going to the right places, saying the right things, and meeting the right people. It is a process not an event.

Have better conversations with the networking connections you make, and I promise there will be less breakdowns in your process.

You are dismissed.

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One thought on “Networking Breakdowns

  1. Donna Cheswick

    Hi Michael: I am a member of Women’s Business Networking Inc. in Southwestern PA. We put out a monthly newsletter with various articles to our 400 + members. I love this article. Would we be able to publish it in our newsletter (giving you/your website credit)??


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