I’ve think networking is a lot like dating. And lately, I decided to start ‘dating’ again locally. Not just to grow my business and find new prospects, but to find colleagues that relate to being a solo entrepreneur. (Frankly, it’s a little lonely sometimes.)
And just like dates, sometimes first networking encounters go sour. Sometimes you’re just not compatible personality-wise; other times it’s the expectations about how far you are willing to go, and how fast, that bring a potentially good relationship into a creepy situation.
The latter happened to me.
I’ll admit it was partly my fault, because I never clearly expressed my expectations before we ‘met for lunch’; neither did he. Although I should have seen the warning signs of this bad date when he said he had heard I got sponsors for blogging. Yet, because this referral was from a very trusted source (and someone I still trust), I kind of ignored the warning signs. It’s like when someone sets you up on a blind date and that someone says the person is a kind and caring guy. You believe them, even if you are sensing something else.
Like all first dates, it was awkward at first. I asked some questions as did he to find out more about each other. But then the tone changed. He started asking me not WHAT I do in my business, but how I do it – and specifically how to get sponsors. Clearly, he had an agenda I did not know about. It turned out he was helping to organize a very cool sounding event which was to take place in three weeks. Could my sponsor be their sponsor?
Wow! That was fast! It felt like the person just tried to kiss me while trying to feel me up! And I wasn’t ready for either.
I explained how sponsorship works and how three weeks is just not enough time to get a sponsor. This was my: “Whoa! Slow down; I’m not that kind of girl!” answer. It was also the truth.
We chatted for a minute or two, then he asked can I have your contact? He clearly wanted me to go all the way on this first date.
I said no.
I barely knew this man and he was asking me to just give him everything. It was insulting and disrespectful. I’ve taken years to hone these techniques and develop these contacts and I get paid very good money for sharing them with businesses that can use them to get sponsorships. But more than that, I have a relationship with my sponsorship contacts—they trust me to pass along qualified contacts and proposals and not waste their time. In fact, those relationships are a lot stronger than the one with the stranger who just asked me to share my best contact.
And guess what? Within minutes of me telling him I didn’t ‘put out’, he was out the door. Wham, Bam, “No thank you, ma’am!” So much for that lunch!
I drove an hour (back and forth) to be there, and the whole meeting lasted 30 minutes. I felt angry that someone would try to take advantage of me like that. And I felt angry with myself that I had not trusted my instinct, not followed through with an agenda and set clear expectations from the get go.
So angry I asked colleagues online their thoughts and how to prevent these bad dates in the future. Here are some of their replies:
Connie Ragen Green of http://HugeProfitsWithAffiliateMarketing.com
If someone local wants to meet and ‘pick my brain’ I respectfully decline and tell them that is something I am typically paid well for – that strategy has served me well over the past few years
Howard Litwak of http://www.ParadigmAssociates.US
I don’t know that I would say this is typical. This person certainly violated the laws of “Be likable and friendly.” And from your description, he was very “Me/I focused” as opposed to thinking about how you might be able to both mutually benefit from a relationship. Connie Regan Green. you might be well served by considering taking some of those meetings with people who want to pick your brain. They very well might be a prospect.. From experience, with some skillful questioning, that opportunity could turn into a well paid client engagement!
Dr. Lisa Van Allen of http://www.vanallencoaching.com/
You’re not alone Shannon Cherry – when I began to get some local recognition for my work, I frequently got invited for coffee. Some would say they wanted to network, others would say they were interested in my work (hinting they were potentials clients). More often than I wanted, the meeting was either to leach information I share with paying clients or they were trying to sell something to me. I now am somewhat blunt when someone reaches out by phone and ask just what they want to accomplish with the meeting. I’m equally blunt when necessary in sharing that I’m fully insured/invested/not interested in a MLM. For those who want a freebie, I have an application for a complimentary session and an online calendar. I moved to a new community 2 years ago and am thinking of connecting with local biz owners – You know I’m going to be clear about why I want to meet!!
Melissa Ward of http://newward.com
This happens to me a lot – people ask to meet for coffee to discuss their marketing needs and it turns into brain picking. I am willing to be helpful, but I am not willing to cough up the specifics. Reality is there’s no such thing as a free lunch – it costs you something, whether it’s your time or your knowledge. As far as advice, I do the following: When someone asks me to coffee or lunch, I ask what it is in regard to. If they tell me it’s to network and get to know each other’s businesses better, I typically go. If they tell me they are looking for advice on Social Media, I offer up a phone meeting to assess their needs and if they seem like they are seriously looking for consulting or training, I will meet up with them. I would never give up a referral on the first “date” – and if asked, I tell them that my reputation is based on my work and my ability to connect the right people together, since I don’t know you well enough to assess if it’s a right fit, I can not refer you to “so and so”. My goal is to provide value to the people in my network, as such I never refer anyone unless I have a great deal of trust in them.
Joan Silva of http://yourmoneydream.com
Oh Shannon Cherry this is a fascinating story and topic. And yes, I have found this happens to me. One of two scenarios … either wanting my expertise, answers and solutions OR selling me on their stuff before they even know me, see if I need their stuff or care about it. It is the aspect of networking that is so frustrating, those out there that go straight for the jugular. I like the way you state it … “go all the way” because we all know it when we see it (or experience it) with another, however, often we don’t realize it’s much like a first date where they have that agenda and you don’t. It’s unfortunate that there are those out there who don’t care to take the time to know a person or connect in a deeper, more meaningful way FIRST. Not to mention it would be helpful to be up front about their agenda so that you can decide whether or not this works for you or not. Allow a ‘no thank you’ instead of forcing the issue. I believe the best way to handle it is as you did. Be giving to a point, to allow the getting to know you part. What I am learning is to shift the question(s) back to the person, versus answering them. In other words, using your example, when they asked how you go Dell as a sponsor, instead of answering the question, ask them, what have you done to get someone or company such as Dell as a sponsor? Shift it back to them and have them answer it. This way you are not giving of the expertise you share in sessions, groups or workshops. There are so many errors made in networking that it’s mind boggling. This one was blatant at least. Often it’s subtle and a person can suck you dry little by little. It’s recognizing the vampire before you get too close that’s the key.
Meredith Liepelt of http://richlifemarketing.com
This behavior is disturbing and I encounter it a lot so I feel your pain. I think that a lot of people don’t realize that they are crossing the line, especially when the perception of you is that you are “so helpful.” I can’t say I’ve found a great way to handle it but I do try to turn it into a moment where I explain that part of what you get as a client is access to my trusted resources, strategic introductions and referrals when I feel they are appropriate. Sometimes an introduction can be too soon so that’s the area we start coaching in. So Joan’s question back is a super-smart way to get into that conversation. ust mentioned this to Corey Liepelt b/c he’s heard me talk about this issue many times. He likes your title and expanded on it saying: “How dare he meet her for lunch and immediately try to get in her….. rolodex.” Ha!
And now it’s your turn!
1) Has this every happened to you? 2) What should you do to stop such things from happening?
Let me know with a comment.