Being real and transparent in networking

Ever met someone at a networking event and wondered if you were experiencing the “real” person?  A few weeks ago I was at a business luncheon, conversing with a woman I’d just met. She represented a line of luxury items for women and was very professional and friendly. Problem was, I couldn’t get her talk about anything other than her product and company. Any attempt on my part to get her to share something about herself was redirected, sometimes awkwardly, back to what she had to sell. Very scripted and robotic. Okay, and a little annoying as well.

I don’t believe I was overstepping any boundaries or invading her privacy; I was just trying to make pleasant small talk and get to know her better. After several tries, I finally gave up (and I’m generally not a quitter).

Today I can tell you the name of the company for which the woman worked. I even have an item picked out in case we ever reconnect. But honestly, at this point, I can’t remember the woman’s name. And I probably wouldn’t recognize her if I see her again.  She was wearing some pretty thick armor that day, which is unfortunate.

I wonder: What was this woman afraid of?  What was stopping her from opening up — and being real?  What might she have been hiding? Who is she really?

I thought of this experience this past week as I read a blog from Michael Hyatt (someone you should consider following if you don’t already). His post is called “Five Ways to Become a More Authentic Leader.” Hyatt’s words resonated with me. So many of the points in his post are applicable, not only to leadership, but to networking and “being” in business.

If you’ve read my book, The Intentional Networker™: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business, you know that 1) discovering who you really are, 2) knowing what you truly want, and 3) showing up accordingly and authentically are three pillars that form the very foundation for intentional (and effective) networking. Even if you do everything in the other six chapters, you’re wasting your time if you’ve not done your work first.

Bottom line: When it comes to networking, by all means be professional and knowledgeable and passionate about your work, products, services, and business.  But when all is said and done, don’t forget to be authentic and transparent.  After all, people do business with people they know, like, and trust.  Those three factors can’t happen if you don’t let others in.

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12 Responses to Being real and transparent in networking
  1. Stefani Zellmer
    January 8, 2012 | 12:15 pm

    This is so true. What I’ve learned in building awareness for my brand (a start-up advertising firm) is that networking is one of the best ways to get into that referral engine. But I’ve also learned that you can push yourself out there all day long, but the real client potential seems to come from our human connections, which evolve out of the personal: friends, family, like-minded business goals, political views, the part of town we live in, the dog park we frequent, where our kids go to school, a common hair stylist, etc.

    Those can’t be realized if we don’t talk about the REAL stuff, like you said. And we all have something more in common than the fact that we both came to the same luncheon. I believe life is way more serendipitous than than. Which makes it more interesting than a sales pitch.

    I could go on…but won’t. Thanks Patti for another great post that I can relate to.

  2. pattid
    January 8, 2012 | 1:30 pm

    Love your thoughts on this, Stefani. Appreciate your contribution! Connecting for business is really about connecting as people and finding common ground as well as things that fascinate us about each other. These things then endear us and accelerate and cement the bond.

  3. Carolle Vargas
    January 8, 2012 | 2:09 pm

    Hello Patti,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I had this same experience and my frustration was that, as I was hoping to establish a relationship, the person I was speaking with was hoping to land a sale. This happened at an after hours networking event and even though I was interested in her product her unwillingness to establish rapport first left me cold and she went on to her next target.
    Thank you for continuing to bring to light the importance of developing and nurturing relationships that are right for us!

  4. pattid
    January 8, 2012 | 3:31 pm

    So true, Carolle. Some people don’t get the somewhat counterintuitive fact that respect and rapport come before anything else. It’s a courtship not a conquest. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Jim Pelley
    January 8, 2012 | 7:40 pm

    Excellent post Patti ~ Thanks! We all want to know the person behind the person. Ultimately, quality networking is all about having a relationship. All enduring relationships require the “be real” factor.

    • pattid
      January 9, 2012 | 8:41 am

      Thanks, Jim. You are so right. And having a sense of humor is soooo attractive, right?

  6. Janki DePalma
    January 8, 2012 | 10:33 pm

    I often wonder if people think that they are “goofing off” if they aren’t talking 100% business at a networking event. But in reality, you don’t want to deal with an in-person infomercial.
    Great article as always!

    • pattid
      January 9, 2012 | 8:41 am

      You are so right, Janki. I see this a lot with salespeople sent out to network by their managers. They get too sales-goal-focused and forget the all-important relationship-building part of the sales process. I see it also with job hunters as well as people who have just started a business. Patience and sincere interest in people are keys to success here.

  7. Steve Harper
    January 9, 2012 | 11:05 am

    This is an all too common problem when it comes to people networking, especially people in a sales or in a business building role. They become fixated on trying to sell every person they talk to. They lack the understanding that it takes time to establish rapport, build a genuine connection and that there is no shortcuts to developing real relationships. Instead they try and close on the first date and fail miserably and wonder why.

    I’ll tell them why…because networking in today’s relationship driven economy isn’t about snazzy elevator pitches, enthusiastic verbal assaults about one’s product or service or even about having the best mousetrap to sell. It’s about people engaging and connecting in a way that is interesting, fun and not salesy. It’s about making a stranger feel safe and comfortable and developing that connection into something more..wait for it…a relationship! (audible gasps are acceptable) And if done right the sales will always come.

    Don’t worry you’ll probably run into old What’s Her Name again…but likely she’ll be hawking something else though wearing different armor but the same misguided approach.

    Great post as always Patti!

    Ripple On!!!

    • pattid
      January 9, 2012 | 1:12 pm

      Couldn’t have said it better, Steve! Thanks for commenting.

  8. Thom
    January 25, 2014 | 9:16 am

    I enjoyed this post. This happens a lot. People get self-focused on wanting the sale and forget that all opportunities come from people”
    . This woman forgot that when you sit across from someone you are sitting across from a human. She needs to learn to treat others as humans – not as prospects!

    Have you ever heard from her again?

    By the way- your writing is always wonderful. Keep sharing with us!

    • pattid
      January 25, 2014 | 1:04 pm

      Thank you, Thom! Always appreciate your insights. Never heard from her again. And, yes, networking is about people and not about sales. So often that is forgotten. Glad to have you as a reader and fan!

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