I was at an event recently. I struck up a conversation with a man I’ll call Mike. I asked him what he did and he told me he worked for a bank. A bank I’d never heard of. Coming from Arizona – the land of the bank a minute – I’m used to being exposed to new banks (at least I thought they were new). So I asked a bit about the bank. How long have they been around? Where were they based? How big are they? Who is their target market? For whatever reason, I was supposed to know this information (based on the way Mike was replying), as the bank was supposedly very large. But I didn’t. I asked more questions because I was so amazed that this massive bank was hiding under a rock (or maybe I was?).
At one point, after asking so many questions about the bank, I smilingly said “Mike, you’ve got to get out more.” At which point he replied (no smile, mind you), “No, you have to get out more.” Now, I consider myself a pretty well-networked individual. Apparently he does too – which is great. But here’s the problem. It seemed like Mike was mad that he had to answer questions about his firm. Now, that might be okay if I was some telemarketer interrupting his dinner or something, but we were at a networking event. Isn’t the whole point of a networking event to get to know other people, their companies and what they do? If Mike didn’t want to answer questions about his firm, he probably should’ve stayed home. If Mike wanted to increase the reputation of his firm, he definitely should’ve stayed home.
And that leads me to a fundamental question. Are your networking efforts as effective as you think? Many people are getting out there attempting to build relationships, but one way or another, they’re making a mess of it. Maybe it’s the glance at the watch/phone “I don’t really want to be here” attitude, or the “Hello, here’s my card. Who are you?” or the “Oh, I just saw someone I really wanted to connect with” chopped liver brush-off.
It’s not always what you say. It’s how you act. And actions speak louder than words. If your actions are telling the other person they’re not important, that’s a problem. Because at the end of the day, people will do business with (or refer business to) people they like. And if at the end of the conversation (or even in the middle of it) you’re not getting put into the “I really like this person” category, then you best get some new actions. Like what you ask? Well, maybe the only actions you really need are to pay attention, be there and aware and be interesting by being interested.