Solo-preneurs need to network to get business, and networking can be an exhausting, relentless and often-unrewarding mistress. So much has been written about how do it right; however, one recent encounter should be filed under what NOT to do. I offer it as a cautionary tale for experienced and inexperienced business people alike.
Full disclosure: Although I once was in business for myself, I now work at a midsize law firm. I was at an event last week in support of an attorney who was presenting there. Browsing the exhibitor tables, I recognized someone from my networking days. She didn't immediately remember me, so I reintroduced myself. As soon as she heard where I work, she attempted to thrust a wad of business cards into my hand with the instruction: "Please pass these on to the attorneys at your firm."
What's wrong with that, you say? This person was disrespectful, bordering on rude, and at the very least, presumptuous. First, I had no idea what she wanted me to say about her work to my attorney colleagues. Her line of work wasn't evident on her business card. Next, I have no firsthand experience with her services, so why should I put myself and my reputation on the line by recommending her to my colleagues? Third, she was essentially requesting that I do her business development work for her. And in case you think it's because this person is new to networking, she's a veteran.
What could she have done instead? For one, she could have explained her services and then asked for an introduction to someone that might need them. She could, in exchange, ask me whom I'd like to meet and offer to set that up for me. I'm sure you have additional ideas, and I'm eager to read them here.
Networking is uncomfortable. I get it. But if we start by treating each other like humans and work on developing relationships instead of treating others as a meal ticket, networking will get easier for all of us.
Andrea Jones is Rivkin Radler’s Marketing Manager and the founder of On Target Marketing. To view her LinkedIn profile, click here: linkedin.com/in/hireandreajones/