Networking & Building Trust
I just got back from a networking event. Biznik's cheeky tagline of 'Networking that doesn't suck,' began playing softly in the back of mind when I stepped into the room and was ringing in my ears when I left.
I just got back from a networking event. Biznik's cheeky tagline of "Networking that doesn't suck," began playing softly in the back of my mind when I stepped into the room and was ringing in my ears when I left.
I guess I should have know better since I was "recruited" to attend. A business coach-type got my name off MeetUp dot Com and sent me the following e-mail (all of the names and dates have been changed):
"We are eager to meet you, Mike. Our special guest speaker this week is none other than Ned Domino, Executive Director of BusinessMeets in Arizona. This fellow KNOWS how to network. Really Peppy Networking meets at 12:00 to 2:00 every Wednesday. It's an adventure because you never know who will show up with interest in your business - at least you will find interesting people, people who want to help you, and the potential for life-long friendships. COME ON DOWN!! And lunch is free for first-timers."
I sent off a message and asked if we had ever met before or if I'd been referred and how ...in general...had he gotten my name? I got back a boilerplate answer, but it was friendly enough, so I said I'd attend.
When I walked into the room I sensed something was a bit different from the networking events I usually attend. The smiles were strikingly large and greetings overflowingly receptive. These folks were really happy to see me. The first words out of the organizer's mouth were Zig Ziglar playbook stuff, like, "If you help enough people get what they want, you'll get what you want." I knew something was up - it wasn't going to be a timeshare presentation, but it would be close.
It started out well enough - the open networking was a generous, full half hour. I met some terrific entrepreneurs, all working hard at their businesses and passionate about what they're doing.
We all took our seats at tables - the room was set up like a classroom (another flag went up) with the event leader up in front behind a lectern. We all got to do a two minute commercial and shameless brag. There were lots of cool people in the room and it was fun to hear what they were doing in life.
And then...a talk by the leader. You could almost feel it coming. It was a 30 minute pitch on "Perfect Postage and Lovely Cards" (I made up the name) - without question, a fabulous product.
But just like every other product sold via this type of marketing the description of the product's features and benefits - and there are many - lasted but a few minutes. It was followed by an extended spiel laced with words like "levels" and "distributors" and "retail" and "wholesale" and "earning" and "referral fees" and "residuals" and ....
Yes, it was true. I got sucked into an MLM presentation (MLM stands for multi-level marketing.) Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against MLMs if that's what people want to do. Just don't invite me under the pretence of an open networking meeting.
Sometimes the only way to get a particular product is to buy it from one of these companies. I've seen lots of wonderful products offered at great prices. Automotive engine additives, health and wellness products, detoxifying agents, self improvement materials from mastery-level people and even thank you notes. Things that are almost impossible to get anywhere else. But I didn't come to the event to hear about any of this stuff - I came to meet people and contribute whatever I can to their businesses.
I definitely expected a shameless brag for BusinessMeets in Arizona, since it was mentioned in the invitation, but very little was said about that. He went right into the subject of the day with the ruse that "Perfect Postage and Lovely Cards" had paid for the room. The presenter said he felt compelled to say a word or two to honor the sponsorship, but yikes, for 30 minutes! It was a sales pitch for something in which I have no interest - as well as it being disingenuous.
So....a couple things happened. He (actually there was a team, including a couple shills) lost my respect and will never earn my trust, plus he wasted my time (a precious resource.)
Here's the deal on building trust - lots of studies have been done and it's generally accepted that we need to engage with others at least 5 times before we really trust them and develop a lasting relationship. It's simply human nature.
Will I ever go back to this networking event? No. And will I ever trust these people? Probably not - no matter what their involvement. Not so much that I got sucked in to something, but because I'll never engage these folks enough times to ever form a relationship.
So...if they're playing the numbers, they're playing the wrong ones. They're figuring on snagging one in twenty people who will buy the product - then they'll "work" on them to become a distributor.
Saying something and being something are two different things. When we host open networking events it truly has to be about the people attending and not about personal gain.
This is why Biznik has become the phenomenon and wonder that it is. Events are put on by members who have no agenda other than helping others improve their businesses. Educational events are meant to share knowledge. Networking events are organized to make connections. Contribution parties are about contributing to everyone else in the room.
The 95/5 rule is terrific. When people attend an event they can see from the host's profile what they do and listening to a minute of the host's commercial is just fine. People like to hear what others are passionate about and how they do it.
Chances of people attending more than one of any host's events are good if they get value and the chances of engaging with the host five times (if that's the magic number) -whether at their events, other meetings, on the phone or simply for coffee are excellent. It's the way we build trust in a relationship. We get to know each other.
A copywriter was attending this meeting as his very first networking event. I felt compelled to call him a day or two later to tell him that most networking events aren't like this one. We had an interesting discussion and he was happy to hear that he (probably) wouldn't be ambushed by an MLM promoter at his next networking meeting.
But selfish, short-sighted networking can ruin it. As Biznikers we bring a long-term and generous spirit to networking and we live it by honoring our guests. Preambles need never be stated, so when overly smiley people tell you they have no expectations and no agenda be careful. They could be wasting your time.
Learn more about the author, Mike Schwagler.
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