How to Network Without Risking Your Reputation

how to network

I think every business owner has experienced being approached by others who want to “network”, “connect”, “compare notes” and/or the EVER famous, “meet for coffee.”  I had someone approach me last week who didn’t have a tempting offer, and tried to lecture me on the “value of relationships” after I determined quickly that he wanted to meet and sell me something and rebuffed his offer.   I posted about it on my Facebook page, and I got a TON of comments as well as inspired another colleague to write a whole post about it.  So apparently, I hit a nerve.

Keeping in mind that everything we want, our goals, dreams, wants and needs, all must come from others, it’s imperative that we have the right strategies for aligning ourselves with the right people. Time is money, and I learned the hard way when I was just starting out that “meeting for coffee” can be a colossal waste of time and energy, which are precious resources.

When you are trying to build up your business, you want to be actively networking with others who can help you reach your goals. Social media is a fantastic tool for this—but there are certain “rules,” if you will, that should dictate your behavior and your activity when using social media networks like LinkedIn or Facebook.

It seems like every day I am completely inundated with requests through LinkedIn or Facebook from people who want something. They might want me to hire them, promote them, give them a recommendation, or have some other request. Some days it seems endless. Now, while I have no problem providing a recommendation for someone that I know well or someone I have worked with, getting a request from someone who is nearly a complete stranger is another story. To be honest, these kinds of requests are really a turnoff and, to me, it tarnishes that person’s credibility—to think that this is how they are going about networking or getting recommendations.

When you use social media, the idea is not to completely swamp all of your contacts with requests. Instead, connect with the right people, and align yourself in a way that is going to help you meet your goals. In a nutshell, don’t go around asking for recommendations from people who don’t know you well enough to do the job. This type of behavior, or this type of approach, can put you on the fast track to be blacklisted!

As you are trying to get ahead with your business, keep these guidelines in mind—especially

when you are developing relationships and building a network:

  1. Build the relationship first—connect with the person in a friendly manner, even compliment them in a genuine way on something (such as a business strategy, a product, a recent speaking engagement, a video of theirs you watched, things that make them think you actually know something about them).
  2. Be of service—ask the person what they are currently working on, offer a service to them that they might be interested in to further their own business. Joint ventures have historically been very successful and strategic!
  3. Be a real person—avoid sending canned messaged or emails that you have obviously cut and pasted to send out to a mass crowd. A personal touch still, and always will, go a long way in the business world.
  4. Be selective—as I mentioned above, don’t just swamp every one of your contacts with requests. Choose the ones that are going to be most likely to be responsive. Choose the ones that have common goals, ideas or strategies. Choose ones that are successful. And choose ones that you have connected with, for real, in some way. Skip the strangers and super loose acquaintances.

In your business dealings, as with most of the other parts of your life, quality is more important than quantity. It is not how many contacts and connections that you have, it is how real those connections are and the quality that counts. Just make sure that you go about making those connections in the right way, rather than using the “smash and grab” strategy that has become so popular—yet not very successful.


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  1. Your article was so dead on point that I know others would benefit from it.

    I’m going to repost your article to my fellow dog trainers who are on a “Sales” discussion forum.

  2. Excellent article Cheryl! I agree with you, business as a whole and certainly networking is all about developing high quality relationships. People need to not only know you (about a company or representative of the company) but they also need to trust and like you. “Smash and grab” (love it) is not the way to do it.

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