Some of you may know that I come from primarily British (okay, and Cornish and Irish) heritage. So it’s no surprise that I love to brandish an occasional quote from whip smart, witty historic figures like Winston Churchill. Here is one of his gems that I find terribly amusing:
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit is again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
What does this have to do with networking? Quite a bit.
As I was catching up on reading recently I read a disturbingly honest blog by a man in sales who noted that he was tired of people using and abusing networking and relationship-building techniques and wasting a lot of time pretending to care about people, their businesses, families, goldfish, and whatnot, when all they really wanted to do was make a sale.
His words made me cringe at first (because I hate it when someone puts a heavy sales pitch on me). But then I laughed out loud. Yes! Thank you! The only thing worse than someone who gets right to the point about why they want to talk to you (so they can sell you something, ask a favor, etc.) is the person who feigns interest, pretends to want to build a connection with you, invites you to lunch or coffee under the guise of getting to know more about you and your business, asks a bunch of pretend-to-be-interested questions, then (at the precise moment) switches gears, pounces and – BAM – hits you with a sales pitch that he or she should have hit you with via email or phone.
Thinking about when that has happened to me puts me in a pretty foul mood. How about you?
Point is, if you have something you really must (or really want to) sell right now, then just sell it. Similarly, if you have a favor to ask, then just be honest and ask for it. If you’re looking for a job or another type of opportunity, then please say so. Just, for Pete’s sake, stop beating around the bush. ASK already! Make it a pile-driver ask and get it over with. Stop all this pretending to be interested in building your network and meaningful, long-term relationships, faking people out, and selfishly wasting everyone’s time. People are smart and they will pick up on it. The dissonance and faking it will tarnish your reputation.
And one more thing: If all you’re interested in is the Almighty Sale or asking for a favor (and it means more to you than the relationship), please don’t be surprised when people respond in kind. Or not at all.