Has someone you didnâ€™t even know ever solicited you for a referral or business? I call this â€œPremature Solicitation.â€ (Say that fast three times and you might get in trouble!)
Iâ€™ve been a victim of â€œpremature solicitationâ€ many times. I was recently speaking at a business networking event and before my presentation a man came up to me and said. â€œHi, it is a real pleasure to meet you. I understand you know Richard Branson. I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide. Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?â€
Hereâ€™s what was going on inside my head: â€œAre you completely insane? Iâ€™m going to introduce you, someone I donâ€™t know and donâ€™t have any relationship with, to Sir Richard, whom Iâ€™ve only met a few times, so that you can proceed to attempt to sell him a product or service that I donâ€™t know anything about and havenâ€™t used myself? Yeah, right. Thatâ€™s NEVER going to happen.â€
I am pleased to report, however, that with much effort, I was able to keep that little monologue inside my own head, opting instead for a much more subtle response.
I replied, â€œHi, Iâ€™m Ivan, Iâ€™m sorryâ€“I donâ€™t think weâ€™ve met before, what was your name again?â€
That surprised the man enough to make him realize that his â€œsolicitationâ€ might have been a bit â€œpremature.â€
I explained that I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after Iâ€™ve established a long-term, strong relationship with the service provider first. He said thanks and moved on to his next victim.
What was even more amazing to me was that a few months later I blogged about this experience on one of my favorite online social networks. A great dialogue ensued with most people sharing their horror stories and frustrations about people who pounce on them at networking meetings asking for business even though theyâ€™ve never met the person before.
Every time I start to think this is an almost universal feeling of distaste for that approach to networking, however, I am brought back to reality by the minority of people who still think that this is actually a good networking technique.
To my astonishment, a man on the forum actually wrote:
â€œI donâ€™t happen to believe that you need a relationship with the person you are asking first. What you must have is a compelling story or product/service that would genuinely benefit the referral. The fact that you had not cultivated a relationship with the person has become irrelevant because, more importantly, you had been in a position to help [your contact] benefit from the introduction. If itâ€™s of genuine benefit to the person being referred, I donâ€™t see the problem. Itâ€™s about the benefit of whatâ€™s being referred rather than the relationship with the person asking for the referral.â€
And he finished this astonishing point of view with:
â€œWho am I to deny my contacts something good?â€
What can I say? The â€œrelationshipâ€ is irrelevant! All you have to have is a good story, product, or service and I owe it to you or any stranger (who says he or she has a good product) to introduce him or her to a good contact of mine! Really? People really think this way!?
According to this writer, it doesnâ€™t matter if I actually know or trust the person wanting the business. As long as the person has a good product (or so he says), I should refer that person because I would otherwise â€œdenyâ€ my contacts â€œsomething goodâ€!
I absolutely disagree with this. I would ask anyone interested in business networking to keep the following in mind:
- Networking is not about hunting. It is not about one-shot meetings.
- Networking is about farming. Itâ€™s about cultivating relationships.
- Donâ€™t be guilty of â€œpremature solicitation.â€ Â Â Do not ask someone for a referral or for business until you feel confident that THEY know and trust you.
- Use networking opportunities to meet people.Â Then, schedule additional times to connect so that you can build trust before asking for business.
Youâ€™ll be a better networker â€“ and a more successful entrepreneur â€“ if you remember these points.
Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. Â He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.BNI.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. Â His book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com. Â Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute (www.ReferralInstitue.com), an international referral training company.
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