One of the biggest challenges people face in “networking” is finding the right people to network with on a long term basis. You have to figure out if the people you are meeting are going to be good networking connections or bad ones. This is the Filtering process. It should be embraced, rather than feared and avoided. The following are two very typical problems people have, and the solutions to avoiding and navigating them.
I often hear people tell me that they met a person at a networking event and took all the right steps. Here is an example as told to me by my friend, Josh. Josh met somebody at a networking event, introduced himself and got to know the other person by asking questions about his new buddy’s personal and business life. Josh offered to help introduce him to clients or other centers of influence. Josh thought he made a good connection. Unfortunately, the introduction ended when the other person left without expressing any interest in Josh. Poor Josh. He was heartbroken. What had he done wrong? Josh was very upset and thought he’d wasted a tremendous amount of time and effort with no result.
However, I see this as a good experience for Josh. The person Josh met filtered themselves. They told Josh in their own way, they were not going to be a good networking partner. The way I see this, Josh only spent 3-5 minutes rather spending days, weeks or months to find out that this person was a taker and not someone that wanted to build a relationship.
Another friend, Barry, an real estate attorney, told me that he met a woman who was in a complimentary business to his and wanted to get together to figure out how they can work together. After a long breakfast together the woman asked Barry if he had any extra “spillover work” that was more than he could handle. She told Barry, that she wondered if he could send his extra business to her sister. This means that the woman had no intention of working with Barry but only wanted him to send his business to her sister. Barry was shocked. Why would somebody be so disingenuous and what could he have done to prevent this?
I’ve discussed this problem with many people and while this woman’s behavior may be out of the ordinary, it might have been avoided. Sometimes it’s good to ask the person you are going to meet if they have any conflict prior to meeting. This can be done politely and indirectly. For example, Barry could have asked the woman, before they met what her opinion was of the real estate attorneys she was working with at the time. By doing this, he will find out if the woman is happy with her current relationships or not happy allowing him to manage his expectations.
What do you think of these examples? Do you have other suggestions or examples on how to handle these scenarios better? Please post your responses on the blog so we can all learn from your experiences.