Networking — A Step Further.


Recently, I was put in contact with a broker who worked for a notable company from which I have always wanted to get business. The way this happened was interesting, since I was performing a service for a client of mine.

I was asked to visit one of this broker’s properties and complete a condition report. Shortly after I arrived, I noticed the house was not secure and there were signs of vandalism. So, I called my client. They encouraged me to speak with this broker.

She was delighted that I would call her seemingly out of the blue with sincere concern for her property. I offered to send all the photos I had taken and she accepted them gratefully. The whole conversation went very well. She even asked for my contact information in case she needed my help in the future.

A few weeks went by and I dropped it. Then, I thought I should call her again and see if she remembered me. Rather than a cold call to ask for work — which is unprofessional — I called to ask if I could treat her to a cup of coffee.

This time, it did not go as I hoped it would. Before I could even mention coffee, she said dryly, “I don’t have the authority to decide which contractors will be used for a service. We always work with….” She apparently saw right through my attempt.

I was embarrased, but persisted, “I completely understand. I still would like to have coffee soon so that I can make a new friend. I know how important it is to have friends in whatever industry you are in.” She blocked me again. But this time it was more than clear. “I don’t have time to join you for a cup of coffee. I don’t foresee myself getting any less busy.”

GULP.

I thanked her as sincerely as I could, but licked my wounds. A dozen thoughts raced through my mind — all which told me I was terrible at this. Networking. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to make an impression. The seconds that followed that call were pretty harsh.

Years before I started a bid consulting firm, I was a young Baptist minister. Naively, I thought this would be the one profession where I would not find the networking jerks. I was wrong. At every annual conference I attended, there they were. Waiting in the bushes for the big names to walk by so they could introduce themselves. I realized then that schmoozing can be found everywhere. And the stench of it smells the same.

After I thought about my second conversation with this broker/lost client, it hit me that I had been dodging another new business owner who had been trying to reach me for a while. He had started a similar company and heard about me. Ironically, he wanted to have a cup of coffee with me and pick my brain. I never spoke to him as pointedly as this broker did, but my lack of availablity sent the same message. He wasn’t important enough.

So, I learned my lesson. I called the man and said I was available to talk anytime. Now maybe I’ve made a new friend.

That is as it should be. Networking should be more about, “Can we be friends?” than “What can you do for me?” Once you establish a sincere basis of friendship, then the rest will take care of itself. You will be driven to help each other succeed without provocation. You’ll have the highest confidence in your friend’s abilities, character and results.

Consider building your friend base. Your friend will help you in ways a quick contact never would. The times when you feel like giving up, your friend will provide support. They will challenge you to grow. They will even carry you with them.

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